Watford’s head coach believes Steven Berghuis has learned a lot from a tough first season at Vicarage Road and praised the Dutchman for working hard to get back into the Hornets’ matchday squad.

Following his summer move from AZ Alkmaar, the 24-year-old made a handful of substitute appearances off the bench earlier in the season but struggled to make an impact. Apart from starting the FA Cup third round victory over Newcastle United, Berghuis saw no first-team action for six months until he came off the bench in the 3-1 defeat against West Ham United earlier this month when he caught the eye.

With Watford losing 2-1 against already-relegated Aston Villa this afternoon, Quique Sanchez Flores turned to Berghuis early in the second half and the winger was soon looking to be positive and progressive. He had one shot late on before the highlight of his substitute appearance came when he delivered a superb cross from the right flank for Troy Deeney to head in Watford’s equaliser.

“It has been a difficult season for Steven but he has learned a lot from it,” Flores said. “It is important for him. He is a very good player technically and I have no doubts about his quality. He has had to fight a lot to find a space in the squad. He has trained hard and at this stage of the season, when we know we’re safe and the players can play with freedom, he deserves to play.

“It was a little unfair when he was playing a few minutes in matches under pressure. He can show everyone he is a very good player. He has worked very hard to show that.”