It was like the clocks had been turned back at Vicarage Road this afternoon.
There was some majestic football being played. Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney were partnering each other up front. And crucially, both men were back among the goals. We even had the dancing men on the scoreboard.
Beppe Sannino recognised in the week that everyone involved with Watford expects promotion this season and after today’s 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers, that is unlikely to dampen.
Deeney has been the subject of several bids from Premier League clubs this season but he showed why the Pozzos are so reluctant to let him leave with another captain’s performance and his first goal of the season on 17 minutes.
Vydra is back at the club where he burst on to the scene and in his second ‘debut’ for the Hornets, he found the net soon after and produced an optimistic showing.
The man who suffered most from Deeney and Vydra’s partnership two seasons ago was Fernando Forestieri and he was again on the bench. But the Argentine-born forward made an immediate impact following his introduction as he scored the Golden Boys’ third goal.
After experimenting with a 4-3-3 system during pre-season, Watford head coach Beppe Sannino decided to go with the tried and trusted 3-5-2 formation.
Hereulo Gomes, Gabriel Tamas and Juan Carlos Paredes made their full Watford debuts in the starting XI and two more – Gianni Munari and Lloyd Dyer – were introduced from the bench.
Gomes and Tamas featured during pre-season for the Golden Boys but it was Paredes’ first outing for the club as his transfer did not receive international clearance until Tuesday. Tamas was right-sided centre half with Joel Ekstrand in the middle and Gabriele Angella completing the back three. Daniel Pudil was left wing-back and Paredes was on the right.
Almen Abdi, Daniel Tozser and Lewis McGugan made up the Hornets midfield.
Ikechi Anya picked up a knee problem in training and joined Sean Murray, Craig Cathcart, Bernard Mensah and Uche Ikpeazu on the injury list.
The tone was set from the start as Watford were gifted a glorious opportunity after just 16 seconds as a poor back pass from Bolton debutant Dean Moxey allowed Deeney through on goal but he struck his shot from an angle wide of the near post.
The Golden Boys were playing with a high tempo and attacking intent early on, with Pudil and Paredes both sending in teasing crosses.
They got their just reward in the 17th minute when a well-placed pass from wide left picked out the run of Deeney and he poked the ball past the on-rushing Andy Lonergan.
And with the next meaningful attack Vydra marked his return to Vicarage Road with a goal as he jinxed past Tim Ream on the byline and slotted coolly past Lonergan from close range with his left foot.
The foot condition which hampered Abdi’s 2013/14 campaign appears to be behind him and the midfield maestro was next to have an effort as his snap-shot from distance went over the bar.
It was all Watford in the opening half an hour and Deeney could have had a second when he headed McGugan’s corner wide at the far post.
Bolton had to wait until the 30th-minute for their first shot at goal and even then Medo’s effort went comfortably over the bar.
It was a first-half display full of energy and the Golden Boys were working as hard without the ball as they were with it, which helped nullify the visiting threat.
The number of clear-cut opportunities reduced as the opening period came to a close but Deeney did almost get on the end of diagonal ball and Abdi had a first-time effort from outside the area saved.
Paredes hit the bar from 20 yards inside the opening minute of the second half but Bolton did have a good spell after the restart; Jay Spearing with a shot from outside the area deflected wide.
Abdi was pushing on from deep and he had three efforts in quick succession. The Swiss international had a shot blocked, had another strike, following excellent play from Vydra, deflected just wide and was denied by Lonergan when one-on-one.
Some of the football being played was reminiscent of the 2012/13 campaign when the Hornets narrowly missed out on promotion both automatically and via the play-offs.
Bolton enjoyed a lot more of the possession in the second half and applied more pressure in the final third. Half-time substitute Liam Feeney had a powerful shot tipped wide by Gomes, Mills headed wide the resulting corner and Craig Davies was wayward with a well-hit strike.
Chung-Yong Lee almost caught out Gomes with a neat shot from 25 yards but the former Spurs man was able to parry over the bar.
Gianni Munari came on for his debut with 20 minutes remaining, with McGugan making way.
And moments after Jermanine Beckford hit the side-netting, there was a standing ovation for Vydra as he made his way off the pitch, with the Czech Republic international reciprocating with a warm applause.
And the same fans were back on their feet moments later when Dorian Dervite misjudged a hopeful ball forward and Forestieri was able to run through on goal and stab home, underneath Lonergan to make it 3-0.
At the other end, Gomes was almost faultless – bar his wayward kicking – and made a superb finger-tip save from Beckford’s header. But he then misjudged the resulting corner which, fortunately for the Brazilian, was headed wide.
Lloyd Dyer was handed his debut in the 83rd minute but bizarrely he came on for Pudil, despite Paredes going down with cramp ten minutes beforehand. The Ecuadorian full back then spent the rest of the match hobbling around and in the end Forestieri went to fill in at wing back.
But it was a minor negative during what was otherwise a hugely positive afternoon if you are a Golden Boys fan.
Watford: Gomes; Tamas, Ekstrand, Angella; Paredes, Abdi, Tozser, McGugan (Munari 70), Pudil (Dyer 83); Vydra (Forestieri 79), Deeney.
Watford substitutes not used: Bond, Hoban, Doyley, Ranegie.
Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan, McNaughton, Mills, Ream, Moxey (Dervite 60); Spearing, Medo; Lee, Pratley (Feeney HT), Danns (Beckford 68); Davies.
Bolton substitutes not used: Bogdan, Trotter, Wheater, Wilkinson.
Attendance: 15,546 (1,396).
Referee: Carl Boyeson.