A stunning Lewis McGugan free-kick and a close range header from Mathias Ranegie helped Watford record a 2-2 draw with fellow Pozzo-owned club Udinese in their friendly at Vicarage Road.

The Italian side had taken the lead in the opening period through Silvan Widmer who headed home from 12 yards.

The Hornets improved after the interval and levelled when McGugan’s fierce free-kick from 30 yards ended in the net.

Udinese re-established their advantage with 15 minutes remaining as substitute Cyril Thereau neatly slotted a shot past Hereulo Gomes.

However, Watford fought back for a second time and earned the draw they deserved when Ranegie nodded in a Daniel Pudil header from inside the six yard box.

With one week until the Championship season begins, Hornets head coach Beppe Sannino said the friendly may provide clues as to how the Hornets would start their opener against Bolton Wanderers next Saturday.

The 4-3-3 system used throughout pre-season was switched to 3-5-2. Gabriel Tamas, Joel Ekstrand and Gabriele Angella were the back three in front of Gomes.

Ikechi Anya and Pudil were the two wing- backs while the midfield trio consisted of McGugan, Keith Andrews and Almen Abdi. Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra led the attack.

Watford looked more comfortable in possession and moved the ball neatly around the pitch, but they failed to create a clear opening.

Watford Observer:

On several occasions the final pass let the Hornets down. When they did manage to break through the Udinese defence, goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic was quickly off his line to snuff out the attack.

Anya did have a sight of goal after a swift passing move but Brkic collected the ball after a loose touch from the Scottish international.

The Little Zebras hadn’t created much of note but almost went in front as Bruno Fernandes struck the crossbar with a close range volley.

Watford didn’t heed that warning and Udinese went in front in the 23rd minute. A pass over a static Hornets defence allowed Widmer time to place his header past Gomes.

The Golden Boys continued to maintain possession but in harmless areas. When they did get a small sight of goal, the Udinese defence halted the opportunity.

The only save Brkic had to make was easy as he held on to a shot from distance from Deeney.

Watford Observer:

Gomes was busier and the Hornets stopper got down well to push clear a Fernandes shot after Tamas had given the ball away on the edge of the Watford area.

It was the final chance of the opening period. For the first time during pre-season, there were no Watford changes at the interval.

The Hornets began the second period with more urgency in possession. Pudil had a shot deflected wide shortly after the restart before McGugan whipped a strike narrowly past the post after Deeney headed the ball down. 

Watford were much more purposeful when they attacked and Sannino’s side levelled just before the hour mark.

After Vydra had been brought down, McGugan stepped up and curled his free kick from 30 yards into the top corner.

Watford Observer:

He was immediately replaced by Cristian Battocchio. Lloyd Dyer and Odion Ighalo were also introduced with Anya and Vydra brought off.

Watford Observer:

Ighalo, who showed several impressive touches throughout his second Watford appearance, had an immediate chance.

The striker held off a challenge of a defender and fired a half volley towards goal. Unfortunately for the Hornets, his effort ended in the side netting.

Watford’s display had improved but they were caught out defensively as Udinese retook the lead.

Watford Observer:

Substitute Allan played through fellow replacement Thereau and the lanky striker sent his effort across Gomes and into the net.

It was a lead the Italians held for only six minutes. Diego Fabbrini, who had come on in place of Abdi, added trickery to the Hornets’ attacks.

He skipped past a challenge and crossed to Pudil. The wing-back headed towards goal and substitute Ranegie got the final touch past Simone Scuffet.

Watford Observer:

In the dying moments Watford almost snatched victory. A short back-pass was intercepted by Ranegie.

He rounded Scuffet and cut the ball back to Ighalo, however, the striker’s pass was too far in front of the Nigerian and the opportunity was lost.

So the Hornets’ first-team ended their pre-season campaign with a draw. Focus now turns to next Saturday and that league opener with Bolton at Vicarage Road.

Watford: Gomes; Angella, Tamas (Hoban 75), Ekstrand; Anya (Dyer 59), Abdi (Fabbrini 75), Andrews, McGugan (Battocchio 59), Pudil (Doyley 81); Deeney (Ranegie 66), Vydra (Ighalo 59) Watford substitutes: Bond, Tozser.

Udinese: Brkic (Scuffet 66); Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Widmer, Guilherme (Allan 59), Bruno Fernandes (Lopez 88), Pinzi (Badu 70), Riera (Silva 65); Muriel (Thereau 66), Di Natale.

Udinese substitutes: Belmonte, Bubnjic, Pasquale, Zielinski,.

Attendance: 11,085