The match won’t live long in the memory of many Watford supporters but the Hornets booked their place in the Capital One Cup second round after completing a 1-0 victory against Stevenage.
The Hornets weren't at their best for the majority of the first round tie and they were ponderous in possession, especially in the first half.
But a second half goal from Lloyd Dyer secured their place in the next round. The winger finished off a swift counter attacking move midway through the second period after good work from Diego Fabbrini and Fernando Forestieri.
After Saturday’s 3-0 win against Bolton Wanderers, Hornets head coach Beppe Sannino said he would make changes to his side. The Italian was true to his word.
There were nine in total as Jonathan Bond, Lloyd Doyley and Tommie Hoban came into the defence alongside the only survivors from the weekend victory, central defender Gabriel Tamas and left-back Daniel Pudil.
Keith Andrews made his Hornets debut in midfield alongside Gianni Munari while Fabbrini and Dyer started on the right and left flanks respectively. Forestieri partnered debutant Odion Ighalo up front.
The opening period of the contest was scrappy but the Hornets did look threatening when they sporadically attacked.
Forestieri had the first chance of the contest. The little Argentine received a pass on the edge of the area, made space to shoot but could only guide his effort over. Munari then followed suit soon after.
Stevenage had offered little going forward in the opening ten minutes but almost went in front from their first attack of note.
Neat hold up play from Darius Charles allowed Charlie Lee space to collect the ball and his rasping 20-yard drive struck the post with Bond beaten.
Watford’s passing was free-flowing on Saturday, that wasn’t the case at Broadhall Way. The Hornets were not fluent in possession and struggled to break down the hosts’ defence.
They did almost take the lead through a long free-kick forward from Tamas which Dyer stretched to meet. The winger got a touch on the ball but could only direct his effort inches wide.
Doyley then came close to adding to his two Watford goals with an over-hit cross which almost caught out Stevenage goalkeeper Sam Beasant, however, he tipped the ball over the crossbar.
Watford began to look for longer passes forward as the opening 45 minutes progressed but they weren’t effective and Stevenage’s defence coped easily.
Boro created half chances. Adam Marriot flicked a header into the arms of Bond before the Watford stopper held on to a powerful shot from Lee.
The match was goalless at the interval. Sannino decided not to make any substitutions at the break but had already replaced Doyley in the 29th minute due to injury. Joel Ekstrand was his replacement.
Watford remained lethargic after the restart and Tom Pett curled a shot narrowly wide for the hosts after a neat turn in the penalty area.
The Hornets then flickered into life and it was enough for the visitors to break the deadlock. A swift counter attack saw Forestieri play through Fabbrini.
The Italy international cleverly tricked his way past Dean Wells and passed to Dyer who finished from close range.
In truth, Watford didn’t deserve their lead and Stevenage continued to frustrate the Hornets.
Munari did have an opportunity to add a second goal but he was denied by Beasant from close range.
Stevenage had worked hard off the ball and battled throughout the contest. In the 65th minute they should have levelled.
A cross found Charles six yards out and he volleyed towards goal. It looked as if Boro had levelled but Bond produced an outstanding stop to push the ball over the crossbar.
Stevenage committed more men forward as the half progressed and Watford looked dangerous on the counter.
Fabbrini had a shot saved, Dyer saw an effort blocked before the winger struck the angle of post and bar after a clever lay off from Forestieri.
The Hornets managed the game well in the closing stages. Boro struggled to gain possession and hopeful long punts forward were dealt with by Ekstrand and Tamas.
Matej Vydra replaced Igahlo in the closing minutes and livened up the Watford attack but the Czech Republic international didn’t get a sight of goal.
Stevenage came close in the final seconds. A corner was met by the home side’s goalkeeper Beasant but he could only direct his header wide. It was the final opportunity of the contest.
Watford’s performance was certainly not memorable nor was it that entertaining. But it was a case of job done.
The Hornets are in the second round, that’s all that really matters.
Stevenage: Beasant; Dembele, Worley, Wells, Okimo (Deacon 55); Whelpdale, Pett (Ashton 79), Bond, Lee; Charles, Marriott (Calcutt 79).
Stevenage substitutes: Day, Johnson.
Watford: Bond; Doyley (Ekstrand 29), Tamas, Hoban, Pudil; Munari, Andrews, Fabbrini (Murray 79)s; Forestieri, Ighalo (Vydra 84), Dyer.
Watford substitutes: Doherty, Smith, Johnson, Gomes.
Attendance: 3969 (1,860)