Fulham’s wretched year in the Premier League came to an end with five games remaining as the Whites were put out of their misery at Vicarage Road tonight following a 4-1 hammering by Watford.

The club’s hierarchy are currently on the third manager of a forgettable campaign having rushed to replace Slavisa Jokanovic with Claudio Ranieri only to discover that the Italian had none of the magic that inspired Leicester City to an incredible league title left. The mess that Scott Parker has inherited as the caretaker will take some time to sort out, but the novice head coach new he’d be in charge of a serious salvage operation and confirmation of relegation coming early should allow Shahid Khan to make some permanent moves soon.

Fulham were never likely to get the win that would have delayed the inevitable, although they rallied briefly after falling behind to a stunning strike from Abdoulaye Doucoure with Ryan Babel firing in a fine equaliser having been set up by Ryan Sessegnon. As ever this season – in times of trouble when Fulham needed to stand up and be counted, they folded alarmingly instead. Second half goals from Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Kiko Fermenia helped the Hornets to a comfortable win and began a raucous relegation party – with rancour aimed at the club’s American ownership – amongst the travelling fans.

The visitors had began brightly with Aleksandar Mitrovic heading wide from Tom Cairney’s cross before the Serbian couldn’t generate the necessary power to beat Ben Foster after a good interception from Andre-Frank Anguissa. Watford almost punished the Whites immediately as Deeney’s diving header from a Fermenia cross flew wide. They took the lead shortly afterwards when the visitors stood out off Doucoure, who made them pay with a wondrous curler from the edge of the area.

Parker’s men did suspend reality by conjuring up an excellent equaliser twelve minutes before the break as Sessegnon slipped in Babel, who took the ball around Foster, to level matters. But the away side couldn’t capitalise on a strong spell of pressure as Babel, Sessegnon and Mitrovic all missed good chances to put the strugglers in front.

They rued such prolifigacy when Hughes volleyed in a half-cleared corner to restore Watford’s lead. Matters only got worse when former Brentford forward Andre Gray, a regular Fulham tormenter turned provider for two further goals in five minutes to rub salt into the wounds. He supplied a simple tap-in for Deeney with an incredible bit of skill and then playing in Femenia ensure the hosts’ unbeaten record since Boxing Day remained intact.

WATFORD (4-2-2-2): Foster; Femenia, Holebas, Mariappa, Cathcart; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pererya (Janmaat 45); Deeney, Deulofeu (Gray 45). Subs (not used): Gomes, Kabasele, Mesina, Sema.

BOOKED: Jamaat, Holebas.

GOALS: Doucoure (23), Hughes (63), Deeney (69), Femenia (75).

FULHAM (3-4-3): Rico; Chambers, Le Marchand, Ream (Seri 71); Christie, Bryan, Anguissa, Cairney (McDonald 87); Babel (Schurrle 81), R. Sessegnon, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Fabri, Odoi, Fosu-Mensah, Kebano.

BOOKED: Chambers, Christie.

GOAL: Babel (33).

REFEREE: Roger East (Wiltshire).