Watford needed extra-time to progress in the Capital One Cup against Wycombe Wanderers but Chris Iwelumo’s goal ensured Gianfranco Zola’s first competitive game in charge of the club ended in victory.
It was a poor spectacle for much of the contest as neither side created much of note and the game was settled in the 110th minute when Matej Vydra, whose performance was a highlight, set up Iwelumo to bundle home.
Three of Watford’s summer signings started the game - Manuel Almunia, Almen Abdi and Vydra - and Ikechi Anya was on the bench.
Fellow signings Daniel Pudil, Fitz Hall and Steve Leo Beleck joined the lengthy list of players absent due to injury or fitness issues and as expected, Daniel Geijo was also unavailable.
A young Hornets side impressed at Gillingham on Tuesday night but Vydra was the only one who retained his place.
It was good work from the young forward on the left which led to Watford’s first chance two minutes into the contest. He released Dickinson and at the second attempt, the full back picked out Jonathan Hogg, who headed narrowly wide under pressure.
But Wycombe went even closer minutes later when Almunia parried what should have been a routine save from Joel Grant’s long-range shot into the path of Richard Logan. The goalkeeper did well to get a hand to Logan’s follow-up and the ball looped up and trickled narrowly wide.
The Wycombe striker headed the ball into the net from the resulting corner but the whistle had already blown.
After a frantic start to the contest, very little happened for the rest of the half. Watford were not moving the ball as freely and there was very little attacking intent.
Ironically, Watford’s next chance came after a 40-yard diagonal ball from Eustace, which picked out the run of Garner. But the striker was always going to struggle to test Nikki Bull with his backwards header.
There was one last shot at goal for Watford before the break when Mark Yeates turned his man well on the edge of the area but his shot was tame and easily saved by Bull.
The Hornets could have gone into the break behind when Anthony Stewart beat Lloyd Doyley to a header from Matt Spring’s free kick with the final attack of the half but the ball went wide of the far post.
Watford started the second half much brighter and had two half-chances early on. First, good work from Vydra saw the forward lay the ball back to Garner but he mishit the ball as he went to strike. Then Yeates swung in a cross-shot which almost caught out Bull and went narrowly wide of the far post.
It was still a largely uneventful game and Wycombe’s management team would certainly have been the happier.
Garner forced a routine save from Bull, Spring had an effort from distance deflected over and Logan shot well wide. But apart from those efforts, there was little to keep the 5,343 spectators entertained.
Watford should have gone behind with just over a quarter of an hour remaining when Logan beat the offside trap and ran clean through but a poor touch, and then even worse finish, saw him hit the side netting from eight yards out.
The home side had to wait until the 78th minute for their next chance when Abdi headed wide Yeates’ corner.
Moments later Wycombe went close again when Stuart Lewis had Almunia scrambling with a 30-yard strike which went just wide.
With minutes of normal time left, both sides had decent chances to win it.
Wycombe should have had a one-on-one opportunity when Wood had the chance to slip Spring through but he under-cooked the pass and a challenge was made, although the rebound needed to be tipped over by Almunia.
Then deep into injury time, Yeates had a free kick deflected over the bar and then Wycombe’s goalkeeper had to make a sliding challenge at the resulting corner.
Watford were the first to have a chance in extra-time as Abdi and Vydra linked up well on the left, with the latter having a shot blocked and then Chris Iwelumo flicking wide.
The breakthrough finally came in the 110th minute when Abdi released Vydra on the right and he chipped the ball over the on-rushing Bull and despite slipping over in the process, Iwelumo bundled home from three yards out.
The Hornets could have added a second soon after when a cross-field pass from Hogg led to Forsyth and Yeates doubling up on the left. Yeates picked out Abdi unmarked on the edge of the area but the ball bounced up and the midfielder snatched at the shot and it sailed over.
Wycombe continued to search for the winner and felt they should have had a penalty when Grant Basey’s cross may have hit the arm of Hogg, but it wasn’t given and Watford progressed to the next round.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley (Hodson 70), Taylor, Nosworthy, Dickinson (Forsyth 77); Eustace, Hogg, Abdi; Yeates, Garner (Iwelumo 97), Vydra.
Subs: Bond, Thompson, Buaben, Anya.
Wycombe: Bull; McCoy (Johnson 22), Doherty, Stewart, Dunne (Basey 98); Lewis, Spring, Bloomfield (Angol 100), Wood; Logan, Grant.
Subs: Ingram, Ainsworth, Kewley-Graham, Taylor.
Referee: Carl Berry.
Attendance: 5,343 (658).