ONE BIG STEP FOR JEROME; Early Goal Puts Blues Closer to Promotion

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From ANDY WALKER at Vicarage Road SUPER sub Cameron Jerome broke the deadlock at fortress Vicarage Road as Blues took a huge step towards the Premier League.

Jerome only needed three minutes to fire home a crucial 73rd minute winner, his fourth goal in six games, and end Watford's seven-game unbeaten run on home soil.

Blues, undefeated in nine, will now be cheering on Burnley tomorrow night in the hope that they dent the hopes of their nearest promotion rivals Sheffield United.

If the Blades lose at Turf Moor then Blues will be four points clear with two games remaining meaning that automatic promotion could be sealed at St Andrew's next Saturday when Preston come to town.

But Blues boss Alex McLeish cautiously warned that his side still need to earn the right to promotion.

Pressure "It gives us a platform again and keeps us in the driving seat," said McLeish. "It puts the pressure on the other teams below us. We know that we face another tough challenge next week. Preston got a tremendous result today (a 6-0 win over Cardiff) and they will be coming with great confidence.

"You have to earn the right, no matter who you play in this division and we will have to earn that again next week." McLeish, missing the spine of his side - Maik Taylor, Liam Ridgewell and Lee Carsley - through suspension and injury, made three changes to the side that drew with Plymouth on Easter Monday. Colin Doyle made his first Championship start between the sticks, newly-crowned player-of-the-season Franck Queudrue replaced Ridgewell while James McFadden was named up front in place of Jerome.

Doyle must have been relishing his long-awaited taste of league action but the Irishman was a virtual spectator for the first 25 minutes as Blues peppered Scott Loach's goal with shots at the other end.

Youthful Watford were clearly content to sit back and let Blues come at them as the Hornets had employed a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation with on-loan Chelsea teenager Jack Cork sitting in front of the defence.

On a bobbly surface similar to the pitch at St Andrew's, McFadden, Keith Fahey and Lee Bowyer all had long-range shots in the opening 21 minutes.

Watford left-back Lloyd Doyley checked that Doyle hadn't nodded off by flashing a low drive narrowly wide of the left post. Jobi McAnuff then had a near post attempt tipped over by Blues' stand-in keeper.

The four-man Blues midfield were working overtime and it was they, rather than the front two of Garry O'Connor and McFadden, who looked the most likely to score. …