WEDNESDAY made it an unhappy second anniversary for Milan Mandaric on a night of woe as they suffered a fifth successive defeat.
Two years after Mandaric’s takeover deal was agreed with the club, the Owls were humbled 4-1 by a capable Watford side who came from a goal down to extend their unbeaten run to six games.
Michail Antonio gave Dave Jones’s men a fourth-minute lead and though an equaliser soon followed, they should have been 2-1 up and facing 10 men from the 32nd minute.
Hornets defender Daniel Pudil ought to have been been sent off for a foul on Jay Bothroyd in the box but was only booked, then the penalty by the recalled Chris Lines was saved.
Apart from that early spell, Wednesday once again hardly ever looked like scoring and though it was all square at half-time they were punished clinically by Gianfranco Zola’s team in the second half.
Many Owls fans left before the end - and many will have been wondering whether Jones would still be able to survive despite the broadly supportive statement by Mandaric on Monday.
The opening goal came after Antonio seized upon a loose pass by Watford right wing back Marco Cassetti to burst through the middle and from just inside the area calmly place a low shot firmly home.
But if Wednesday fans thought that this might be the signal for their team to take control, they were mistaken.
Watford kept possession with fluid movement and passing and earned an 18th minute equalier - drilled home by Fernando Forestieri from just inside the box after he got away from Bothroyd in a forward run to receive a throw-in unmarked.
Jones sought to combat the Hornets’ renowned possession football - last night executed at the start within a 5-3-2 framework - by making another change in system, from last Saturday’s 4-4-2 to 4-5-1, with Bothroyd back on the right flank.
But Bothroyd came inside to make a fine run and earn the penalty, racing on to a through ball by Mamady Sidibe and being brought down six yards out by Pudil, who was the last defender.
Lines struck the spot kick low but not powerfuly enough or accurately enough towards the corner and ther keeper went down to his right to make a good save.
For all the slick passing that the visitors emmployed, they did not pose any further threats in the first half.
Just before half time the OWsl produced their best move of the half: Jeremy Helan found Antonio, Paul Corry teed the ball up for Rhys McCabe, and the Scot’s drive was well held by Almunia.
There was further hope when a good cross by Bothroyd was chested down by Antonio, but Sidide blazed a half-chance over the bar.
Wednesday were almost caught cold in the second minute of the first half when Alex Geijo sneaked in for a near-post header but Chris Kirkland was alert to that and a ferocious strike from the forward soon afterwards.
Kirkland did it again in the 65th minute, blocking a piledriver by Forestieri after Miguel Llera chested the ball into the forward’s path.
Errors by Wednesday irritated the crowd - but the mood was soured even more when Watford took the lead with a sloppy goal in the 67th minute. A right-wing free kick by Mark Yeates saw striker Geijo allowed a free, downward header at the far post. Immediately Lewis Buxton was withdrawn and Jermaine Johnson took over at right back. “He’s not a right back,” chanted the crowd, but Buxton had appeared to have a problem.
Wednesday huffed and puffed, the crowd’s frustration showed, and Watford sub Toy Deeney rubbed it in by scoring with his first touch, shooting home unmarked inside the box.
Already fans were leaving the ground but there was an exodus after midfielder Yeates slammed a great shot into the far corner from 20 yards in the 83rd minute.
It just about summed up Wednesday’s night when Bothroyd fired a chance high into the Kop from 12 yards with the last kick off of the match.
Lines made his first league start of the season in a side showing three changes after the defeat by Leicester.
Jones, who was critical of his midfield on Saturday, also brought in Paul Corry while Johnson and Semedo were relegated to the bench.
Miguel Llera replaced Martin Taylor after his one-match ban, and Gardner regained the captaincy from Taylor.
But the ex-Watford centre-half got a chance to play against his old club when Gardner had to stay off at half-time.
McCabe had to go off onlyh seven minutes into the half, with Semedo going on. Then ref Tony Bates departed, injured, in ther 60th minute, and was replaced by linesman Robert Merchant.
OWLS: Kirkland 8, Buxton 7 (J Johnson 67), Llera 6, Gardner 7 (Taylor ht 7), Helan 7, Bothroyd 6, Corry 6, Lines 6, McCabe 6 (Semedo 52), Antonio 6, Sidibe 6. Subs not used: Bywater, O’Grady, Mayor, Jones.
HORNETS: Almunia 7, Hoban 7, Hall 7, Ekstrand 7, Pudil 6 (Dickinson 87), Hogg 6, Cassetti 6, Yeates 7 (Murray 90), Chalobah 7, Geijo 7, Forestieri 8 (Deeney 73)7. Subs not used: Bonham, Vydra, Smith, Battochio.
Bookings: Geijo, Pudil, Buxton.