Blues were beaten on their travels for the second time this season with a 2-0 defeat at Watford.
Goals from Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra were enough to seal the win for the home side as Blues failed to make their mark on the encounter.
In similar fashion to Tuesday’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, a sloppy first-half again cost Blues. But, despite a much-improved second period, they had already left themselves too big a task.
Blues handed Nikola Zigic his first start of the season after the Serbian scored from the bench in two consecutive games, whilst Chelsea loanee Ben Gordon came in for his debut at the expense of an injured David Murphy.
The left-back took a knock on his knee in a training session, so was not risked by Lee Clark and Wade Elliot dropped to the bench to accommodate Zigic.
The Hornets were captained by former Blues defender Martin Taylor and recalled Lloyd Doyley and Chris Iwelumo at the expense of Lee Hodson and Joe Garner.
Blues got off to the worst possible start as Watford were gifted a third-minute penalty. Daniel Pudil’s left-footed strike was parried high by Jack Butland and as the ball dropped, skipper Steven Caldwell was adjudged to have leant into Matej Vydra by referee Keith Stroud. Butland guessed the right way but was unable to get close to Almen Abdi’s precise spot-kick.
The Hornets pressed early to try and double their advantage as Taylor headed straight at Butland and Abdi fired wide from 25 yards.
Curtis Davies nodded an outswinging Burke corner wide as Blues looked to mount a comeback but in an open game, both sides passing was letting them down.
The Hornets made the most of their good start by scoring a second in the 17th minute. A Chris Iwelumo lay-off was picked up by Mark Yeates and the former Colchester man slipped a good ball through to Vydra, who beat Butland with a composed finish.
Yeates twice tried from range to notch a third for the hosts, but neither effort came close as Watford dominated the first-half possession.
The Hornets’ advancing full-backs were causing Blues problems and a left-wing cross from Pudil was nodded wide by Vydra, who found himself leaning backwards to make the contact.
On the stroke of half-time, Burke cut inside and registered Blues’ first shot on target, but Manuel Almunia made a comfortable save.
As the second half begun, Blues seemed to have made a conscious effort to try and retain possession more and had an early opening when King flicked on to Zigic, but he was dispossessed by Nosworthy. The Hornets were seemingly stunned into action by that chance and Abdi nodded wide from a Murray cross at the second attempt.
Zigic then attempted an effort from range, but it was comfortably held by Almunia and that proved to be the Serb’s last contribution to the game. Blues boss Clark was evidently unimpressed by his side’s second –half start and he replaced Zigic and Darren Ambrose with Morgaro Gomis and Peter Lovenkrands in the 56th minute.
The Dane almost had an immediate impact as Burke flashed a ball across the face of the goal, but it just evaded the former Newcastle man.
However, the visitors were looking much brighter and the higher tempo was creating chances. Hayden Mullins had a strike blocked by the commanding Nosworthy and after a sustained spell of pressure and a mazy run down the right, Burke stood a ball up that was cleared to Redmond only for the youngster to fire over from the edge of the area.
The Blues pressure continued as clever interplay between Spector and Mullins set up Burke, but he could not wrap his foot around his curled effort and it floated just over the bar.
After King was hauled down by Taylor, who was consequently booked, Burke floated a free-kick to the back post which evaded the Blues attack. However, Caldwell retrieved and delivered the ball back in for Davies to nod wide from around eight yards as a comeback goal continued to evade the visitors.
Ravel Morrison replaced debutant Gordon to try and add some creativity, but it was too little, too late for Blues.
Blues starting XI:Jack Butland; Jonathan Spector, Curtis Davies, Steven Caldwell, Ben Gordon (Ravel Morrison, 82); Chris Burke, Hayden Mullins, Darren Ambrose (Morgaro Gomis, 56), Nathan Redmond; Marlon King, Nikola Zigic (Peter Lovenkrands, 56).
Unused substitutes: Colin Doyle, Pablo Ibanez, Wade Elliott,Adam Rooney.
Watford starting XI (numerical order): Manuel Almunia, Martin Taylor, Mark Yeates, Jonathan Hogg, Chris Iwelumo (Steve Beleck, 82), Lloyd Doyley, Sean Murray (Lee Hodson, 89), Daniel Pudil, Matej Vydra (Carl Dickinson, 78), Almen Abdi, Nyron Nosworthy.
Unused substitutes: Jonathan Bond, Craig Forsyth, Ikechi Anya, Joe Garner.
Goals: Abdi (3), Vydra (17)
Bookings: Taylor (79)
Attendance: 11,022 (849 away fans)
Referee: Keith Stroud