Watford take giant step to Premier League return with win at Norwich

Watford took a giant step towards automatic promotion from the Championship as they beat the promoted leaders Norwich at Carrow Road. Dan Gosling’s winner moved the Hornets nine points clear in second after Swansea lost at home to QPR and Brentford drew with Cardiff.

Xisco’s side bounced back from a shock defeat at Luton in the best possible fashion as Dan Gosling’s second-half goal earned them a priceless victory. For Norwich, this was a second home defeat in four days since booking their Premier League return. Daniel Farke’s team could have secured the title with a win, but are still five points clear of Watford with three games to play.

Gosling should have opened the scoring after just six minutes when he headed Craig Cathcart’s cross over the top from a good position, before the lively Ismaïla Sarr fired just wide. Norwich had their moments as the half progressed, Todd Cantwell and Kieran Dowell both seeing shots deflected just over.

Tim Krul did well to foil Sarr at the near post before producing a superb double save to thwart first Ken Sema and then Sarr on the rebound. Cantwell tested Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann after a slaloming run to the edge of the box, but the Hornets deservedly took the lead on 57 minutes.

An attack down the right saw the ball reach João Pedro just inside the box and the striker picked out Gosling, who sidefooted home at the back post. The hosts responded well, with Cantwell lifting the ball just over the bar from Max Aarons’ cross.

At the other end, Grant Hanley’s superb challenge denied Watford substitute Andre Gray 15 minutes from time. Norwich kept pushing and almost grabbed an equaliser in stoppage time. With nine minutes added on, Will Hughes made a brilliant block to deny substitute Mario Vrancic a dramatic late leveller.

Brentford look destined for the play-offs after a 1-1 draw at home to Cardiff. Kieffer Moore gave the Bluebirds the lead from the spot just before the hour after Ethan Pinnock handled Curtis Nelson’s goal-bound header on the line. Tarique Fosu levelled six minutes later, his dipping 25-yard drive deceiving Alex Smithies, who let the ball squirm through his hands and in.

Swansea’s automatic promotion hopes are effectively over after QPR claimed a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium. Lyndon Dykes struck the winner in the final minute after being set up by substitute Albert Adomah. Ilias Chair had twice struck the woodwork for the in-form Hoops, with Wayne Routledge hitting the post for Swansea. Steve Cooper’s side now trail Watford by nine points with an inferior goal difference.

Derby’s relegation worries deepened as they were beaten 3-0 at Preston. Wayne Rooney’s side are just four points above Rotherham in 22nd, with the Millers having three games in hand. Goals from Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson edged Preston up to 14th.

Sheffield Wednesday kept their slim survival hopes alive with a 1-0 win over Blackburn at Hillsborough. Josh Windass got the first-half winner to move the Owls four points behind Derby with three matches left to play.