The Rams slightly edged a dull opening half-hour which was short on incident. Alberto Bueno, back in the side after missing the humiliating FA Cup Third Round defeat to Crawley Town had the first effort on goal but his strike from the edge of the box flew wide. Kris Commons also fired a low shot off target for the Rams after an impressive burst of pace.
But it was Watford who broke the deadlock on 36 minutes when winger Cowie made space on the left and pulled the ball back to Buckley, whose slotted finish went through goalkeeper Stephen Bywater’s legs.
Watford’s second saw Graham smash the ball home after a wonderful team move. Buckley released Sordell with a clever lofted pass and Sordell raced down the right and picked out Graham inside the penalty area.
And it got even worse for the visitors before the break when Brayford failed to deal with a long ball forward and Sordell ran through to the fire past a bewildered Bywater. That ten-minute spell of madness cost the Rams any chance of taking something from a match they had started in promising fashion.
But although they improved, Derby were restricted to a couple of long-range attempts from Green and Miles Addison and Watford boss Malky Mackay saw his side – now the division’s joint top scorers – hold on without too many alarms.
Watford will next face fellow promotion candidates, Cardiff City at the Cardiff City and can make it 8 wins on the trot. Whereas, Derby County will look to bounce back with a win at home to local rivals, Nottingham Forest.