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22:13 9th March 2010

Kuqi heads Swans to victory at Watford

Flying Finn Shefki Kuqi headed Swansea City's play-off quest right back on course at Watford with their first win at Vicarage Road in over 30 years.

The striker dived to meet a Craig Beattie cross and head home the only goal of a hard fought contest after just 18 minutes to keep the injury-hit Swans in fourth place on 59 points - nine points clear of seventh placed Blackpool.

And with play-off rivals Cardiff City and Sheffield United both going down against Ipswich and Peterborough respectively, Kuqi's winner was the perfect lift for Paulo Sousa's side after the disappointment at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

It also set things up perfectly for the double header at the Liberty Stadium against Sheffield Wednesday (Saturday) and West Brom (Tuesday).

Watford: Scott Loach; Adrian Mariappa (Lee Hodson, 80'), Jay DeMerit (C), Martin Taylor, Lloyd Doyley; Don Cowie, Henri Lansbury (Ross Jenkins, 90+2'), John Eustace, Jon Harley (Stephen McGinn, 80'); Danny Graham, Heidar Helguson.

Not Used: Richard Lee (GK), Dale Bennett, Will Hoskins, Liam Henderson.

Swans:Dorus de Vries; Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Alan Tate(C), Jazz Richards; Leon Britton (Tom Butler, 83'), Mark Gower, Darren Pratley, Cedric van der Gun, Craig Beattie (Guillem Bauza, 68'), Shefki Kuqi (Besian Idrizaj, 90+5').

Not Used:David Cornell (GK), Lee Trundle, Lee Lucas, James Burgin.

Attendance: 12,907 Away: 725

Referee: T Ketle (Rutland)

Match details

The Swans have made two changes for tonight's clash at Vicarage Road.

Nathan Dyer (ankle) misses out through injury and he is replaced by Cedric van der Gun who starts his first game following a hamstring injury, while the only other change sees Craig Beattie come into the starting eleven in place of Tom Butler.

Second-year scholar Lee Lucas continues on the bench as does young professional James Burgin.

The Swans switched to the more conventional formation of 4-4-2 for this midweek trip to a bitterly cold Vicarage Road with Craig Beattie entering the fray to partner Shefki Kuqi in attack.

But even before the ball entered either players' path John Eustace fired high and wide over Dorus de Vries' goal from 20-yards on two minutes following a move which started in the Hornets' own half.

Kuqi did get his first touch barely 60 seconds later when racing onto his own touch from Darren Pratley's flick only to see goalkeeper Scott Loach get to it first.

Watford responded with Danny Graham's close-range header being cleared by Swans skipper Alan Tate and then Martin Taylor seeing his effort from inside the area scrambled away.

But then play switched down to the other end with the Swans creating two fine chances to almost break the deadlock - firstly Kuqi saw his shot palmed away by Loach from de Vries' long punt downfield while the same player struck the post with a header 60 seconds later from Darren Pratley's cross.

Paulo Sousa's side certainly had the edge at this point of the game and after Beattie saw a low drive deflect away for a corner Pratley was next to test Loach with a 12th minute attempt.

And they were to be rewarded with their pressure with an opener on 18 minutes - an initial Mark Gower corner had been cleared but when a Hornets' counter attack was foiled the Swans broke down the left-hand side through Beattie.

The Scottish international took a few strides forward before delivering a sweet cross into the heart of the area where Shefki Kuqi connected with a diving header, Loach did get a touch but it wasn't enough to stop is bobbling over the line for the Finnish star to score his third of the season.

Watford responded with Jat DeMerit cleanly striking over two minutes after the goal while Heider Helguson saw a close-range header from Don Cowie's cross taken off his foot by Tate.

The hosts continued to threaten and after Lloyd Doyley screwed a shot over the bar their next best attempt at scoring came eigt minutes before the break when Dorus de Vries showed great reflexes to get down to his left and push Jon Harley's header from a matter of yards around the post.

They continued to pile on the pressure and a few minutes later it was Angel Rangel who came to the Swans' rescue with a goal line cleared from Heidar Helguson's volley while the Swans did come close to extended their lead as Loach produced an excellent stop from Beattie's attempt six-yards out - the front-man did beat the goalkeeper with his next attempt 60 seconds later, only to see it cut across goal and drop wide at the far post.

Half-Time: Watford 0 Swans 1

The pressure was on at the start of the second-half as Watford went seeking a leveller, and they almost got it on 53 minutes through Heidar Helguson; the Icelandic forward connecting with Adrian Mariappa's long throw only to head his effort inches over the top of goal.

They continued with an aerial bombardment into the visitors' area where the safe hands of de Vries came in handy to collect a number of high balls into his area.

The 725 Swansea City fans at Vicarage Road had to wait until just after the hour to see their side's first proper attempt, Craig Beattie playing a neat one-two with Cedric van der Gun only for Loach to gather the return ball at the Scotman's feet.

Guillem Bauza was introduced in place of Beattie to play in only his second league game of the campaign but within two minutes of his arrival Watford went on to create another fine opening with Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury forcing an excellent save from de Vries' legs, and that was just after Adrian Mariappa felt he should have been awarded a penalty following a block by van der Gun.

Bussy, meanwhile, was almost handed a dream return to action when he was gifted possession midway inside the Watford half by DeMerit on 77 minutes to clear on goal, however by the time he got to the edge of the box he was sandwiched by two defenders, one of which was Lloyd Doyley who robbed the striker of the ball and cleared it to safety.

He was also given a free-header from fellow substitute Tom Butler's free-kick six minutes from the end which, unfortunately, was sent wide of the target.

Both sides continued to seek for the game's second goal but Paulo's troops were able to keep hold of their slender lead to record their first win at Vicarage Road since 1978.

    Data provided by Press Association