Scale of task facing Rob Edwards laid bare as Leicester thrash woeful Watford

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Harvey Barnes slots home Leicester's fifth on a horror day for the hosts - GETTY IMAGES
Harvey Barnes slots home Leicester's fifth on a horror day for the hosts - GETTY IMAGES

As farewells go, this was the dampest of squibs. Having managed from Milan to Malmo over a 46-year career, which includes four national sides and a host of top-ranking clubs, 74-year-old Roy Hodgson’s last home match as Watford manager and surely the last home match of his career ended with a grisly 5-1 thrashing by Leicester City.

“The antithesis of what we were hoping for,” he sighed. “If the club don’t want me to take charge at Chelsea next week, I’ll understand and won’t kick up a fuss. I wasn’t lured or duped into coming here. I failed to do what the club wanted, ie keep us up.”

As Hodgson bade farewell to Hertfordshire after taking one point from his eight home games, he fired a programme notes parting shot at players who “weren’t able to produce the performances they’d been billed as being capable of”.

Afterwards he added: “Ben Foster said today there’s a feeling that some players haven’t had enough support from some of the others. I understand where he’s coming from.”

It was as if he had left already. During the match, Hodgson rarely strayed from the dugout and after it, as after last week’s defeat at Crystal Palace, he chose not to acknowledge Watford’s remarkably patient supporters.

“Whether I walk about and clap them is neither here nor there,” he said. “I have no right to be thanked: they hoped everything would change and it hasn’t.”

Hodgson claimed “I don’t know the man”, but his replacement, Rob Edwards, was awkwardly introduced to the crowd before what may be Watford’s last home Premier League game for some time. If Edwards had harboured any illusions regarding the scale of his task, they would have been rudely demolished by Leicester, whose five goals were linked only by the wretched defending which enabled them.

Visiting manager Brendan Rodgers’s selection was more end-of-term, with goalkeeper Danny Ward starting a Premier League game for the first time since conceding three at Swansea for Liverpool in 2016.

Ward conceded again after just six minutes as Leicester’s set-piece frailty raised itself once more. Samuel Kalu whipped in a corner from the right. It bounced off Youri Tielemans into the path of Joao Pedro, whose low shot flew in off Timothy Castagne.

Shaken by such effrontery, Leicester took themselves off the beach and when they did attack, they scored. Craig Cathcart and Adam Masina bumped into each other when confronted with Jonny Evans’s long hoof forwards. Tielemans collected the loose ball and squared for the unmarked James Maddison to tap in and reach double figures in a Premier League season for the first time.

And when Leicester attacked again, they scored again. Edo Kayembe lost possession and Maddison launched a long pass forwards. Foster came for it and, as Cathcart and Christian Kabasele watched, Jamie Vardy nipped in to head it over the departing goalkeeper and into goal.

With Maddison the fulcrum of the bulk of Leicester’s good work, Watford wilted. Thirty seconds after the restart Leicester had a third. Marc Albrighton sauntered down the right and crossed deep. The unmarked Harvey Barnes volleyed under Foster.

The fourth and fifth were as inevitable as the defending that preceded it. Barnes tried his hand at a long ball. Cathcart waved a casual foot as it bounced past him and the lurking Vardy rounded Foster and tapped in. Finally, the long-surpressed boos rang out.

They were louder still after the fifth when Maddison carried the ball forwards and, noting Ngakia yet again out of position, found Barnes, who sidestepped Kabasele’s half-hearted challenge to roll home.

“Terrific,” said Rodgers. “We showed the verve, quality and speed in attack, plus strong and aggressive defending. It’s a winning mentality marker for next season.”

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