With Troy Deeney absent, Matej Vydra gave Hornets fans a timely reminder of his goal-scoring capabilities as he netted the only goal in Watford’s 1-0 pre-season victory at Boreham Wood.
Golden Boys’ captain Deeney, who has been the subject of several transfer bids from Premier League sides, was not included in the squad - the Hornets refused to comment on his absence.
If Deeney does depart, Vydra will be expected to take on even more goal-scoring responsibility.
His strike against Wood arrived in the 67th minute. He dribbled across the area before shooting towards goal.
The ball struck Luke Garrard, wrong-footed goalkeeper James Courtage and ended in the net.
Watford lined up in a 4-3-3 formation and Vydra led the attack with Lloyd Dyer and Ikechi Anya on the flanks.
Daniel Tozser, Cristian Battocchio and Almen Abdi were the midfield trio with Lloyd Doyley, Gabriele Angella, Gabriel Tamas and Daniel Pudil the back four. Heurelho Gomes started in goal.
Watford created several chances during the first half but Wood goalkeeper Courtnage was not truly tested.
After Lee Angol had fired over for the hosts, Courtnage twice denied Anya in quick succession. The first was a save at his near post before he collected an attempted chip from the winger.
The Hornets were much more purposeful in possession than against Shrewsbury Town last Saturday with Abdi linking play well.
He almost put Battocchio through on goal but Josh Hill cleared the danger while Wood midfielder Graeme Montgomery scuffed a volley wide.
The best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes fell to a likely source. A long ball forward put Vydra through on goal.
The Czech striker steadied himself, sent Courtnage the wrong way but saw his effort rebound back off the post. Anya was again denied by the Wood stopper moments later as the Hornets pressed in search of an equaliser.
Wood hadn’t threatened Gomes’ goal but they almost caught Watford on the break but a combination of the Brazilian goalkeeper and Angella cleared the danger.
In the balmy conditions both sides partook in a drinks break on the half hour mark. It seemed to benefit the home side and Ben Nunn floated a cross onto the roof of the Hornets net before Montgomery fired narrowly over from distance.
Wood’s defence dropped deep when the Hornets had possession and the visitors struggled to find a route through.
A purposeful run from Dyer almost broke the hosts’ resistance but after he evaded three challenges, Courtnage was off his line to smother the chance. It proved to be the final opportunity of the opening 45 minutes.
Hornets head coach Beppe Sannino made four changes at the interval. Doyley, Tamas, Battocchio and Anya were brought off with Tommie Hoban, Joel Ekstrand, Lewis McGugan and Mathias Ranegie their replacements. The formation remained 4-3-3.
Boreham Wood had an early chance as a corner was scrambled off the line by Hoban.
The Hornets then should have gone ahead. Vydra, who had moved out to the left wing, crossed to the back post and Ranegie headed his effort into the side netting.
McGugan, Dyer and then Abdi all sent shots from the edge of the penalty area into the arms of Courtnage as Watford continued to search for the opener.
A neat interchange of passes did manage to get Vydra behind the Wood backline and his cut back was met by Abdi.
The Swiss midfielder couldn’t direct his shot on target as he came under pressure from Reynolds.
It took until just after the hour mark for Courtnage to be really tested. Abdi’s near-post corner was met by Vydra and his flick was pushed over the crossbar by the Wood stopper.
From the resultant corner, Luke Garrard cleared from inside the six-yard box to deny Angella.
Wood had offered little in attack during the second period but they almost went in front through Montgomery. The winger unleashed a 30-yard drive which swerved and Gomes reacted quickly to push the ball over.
But, in the 67th minute, Watford finally made the breakthrough. Vydra collected the ball on the left, moved across the hosts’ penalty area and fired towards goal. The ball took a touch off Garrard and ended in the net.
Watford continued to carve out opportunities. Angella flicked a corner over before McGugan curled a strike against the crossbar.
Abdi teed up McGugan again minutes later and the midfielder smashed his shot just past the post.
It was the final chance the Hornets created as they eased through the final ten minutes.
The performance was certainly an improvement on last Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury. Watford looked sharper in possession and created several chances.
There is still plenty to work on for the Golden Boys but it was a productive display against a battling Wood side.
Watford: Gomes; Doyley (Hoban HT), Angella, Tamas (Ekstrand HT), Pudil; Abdi, Tozser, Battocchio (McGugan HT); Anya (Ranegie HT), Vydra, Dyer (Fabbrini 73).
Watford substitutes: Bond, Doherty, Smith.
Boreham Wood: Courtnage; Nunn, Hill (Cox HT), Reynolds, Morgan; Whichelow, Thomas (Hope 78), Garrard, Montgomery (Sterling-Parker 78); Angol (Noto 78), Shakes (Donnelly 78).
Boreham Wood substitutes: Freund.