Watford 1, Bradford City 0: The writing was on the wall at the Vicarage Road bookies long before kick-off.

Chalked up were the odds for first goal-scorer. Top City choice Dean Windass, second Robbie Blake, third Michael Branch.

So that's a player who's banned, another who didn't travel because of injury and Blakey who joined Burnley nearly two years ago!

It's fair to say that nobody seriously expected the visitors to trouble the Watford net. And how often are bookmakers wrong?

Rookie goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley enjoyed such a cushy number in his first full game, he could have put his feet up and watched a re-run of the rugby with a few tinnies.

Joe Royle reckoned Ipswich "hammered" City 1-0 last week, and few could argue with his assessment. Watford boss Ray Lewington could have uttered exactly the same words.

This was a big, big game for both sides. Even at this early stage of the campaign it was vitally important in terms of morale and pulling clear of the relegation places.

I just wish somebody had told City.

They were a shadow of the team that had torn into Crewe to pull back from two behind four days before. Where was the spirit, togetherness and fight which City have prided themselves on during the toughest moments?

That's two points in seven games, and this time they cannot use the performance level as a smokescreen. The only fallacy about this mismatch was the misleadingly close margin of victory.

Nicky Law's future will be back under the microscope, but he offered no excuses for this dire display. Nothing went his or City's way against a team that began the day three points behind.

By the final whistle they were ahead on goal difference. Judging by that 90 minutes, the sides were more like leagues apart.

And yet for all Watford's play and total possession, there was a chance that City could sneak back up the M1 with a point under wraps. They would not have deserved it but beggars can't be choosers.

The first half was spent almost entirely in City territory but finished 0-0.

Mark Paston, back in goal after Marlon Beresford waved farewell, pulled off a fine save from Danny Webber, who had been put clear by a woefully short header from Paul Evans. Then Marcus Gayle scuffed wide of a near open goal - and couldn't really use a heavy cold as an excuse for locating the side-netting when it seemed impossible to miss.

City had been under the cosh, but that was nothing new. And without offering any sort of attacking response, they were still on level terms.

But five minutes after the break City's world totally caved in.

David Wetherall stretched to tackle livewire winger Paul Devlin and twisted his knee in the process. He crumpled in a heap and immediately waved his arm in the air for help like a distress flare.

As Wetherall was taken past the bench with arms crossed over his bandaged head, Law looked on impassively. But inwardly his expression must have been exactly the same.

The one constant in City's defence had been ripped from him and he knew, we all knew, what was going to happen next. Gareth Edds, who may have his limitations but does not lack for heart, shuffled to centre half alongside Jason Gavin. But the imposing presence was missing.

"Wetherall is always such a dominant figure," said Lewington. "He's always done well when I've watched Bradford so we were quite happy to see him disappear."

It took only six minutes for Watford to cash in on Wetherall's absence.

Devlin, who gave Wayne Jacobs a torrid time, found himself in too much space on the right and shuffled the ball to Micah Hyde.

Yellow shirts were queueing up in Paston's goalmouth and Scott Fitzgerald won the race to touch in the low cross.

Fitzgerald was playing non-league football until recently and was spotted after training with Chelsea.

This was his third goal in five starts since being snapped up for free, and he almost had a fourth with a header from Lee Cook's cross which bounced back off the upright with Paston beaten.

Sub Tom Kearney forced a genuine save out of the bored Pidgeley and Evans bent a stoppage-time free-kick the wrong side of the post. It would have been a travesty if either shot had gone in.

Law could find nothing positive from it and admitted City were beaten in every department.

"Vernazza and Hyde ran the show in midfield, we got bossed up front and their attack gave us a real torrid time," he said.

"We were second best everywhere and there's not much more I can say."

The table is still close and can change quickly with a couple of good results.

But are City currently capable of stopping the rot, especially minus captain courageous Wetherall?

The next chance to put it right is against Nottingham Forest, who have just whammed six past Wimbledon.

And, perhaps more worryingly given the dreadful home record, it's at the Bradford & Bingley, where City cannot buy a point.

It's going to be a long week for everyone - the manager, players and the long-suffering supporters.

It's suddenly got the makings of also becoming a long season.