A second-half stunner from Jose Holebas fired Watford to a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough in the Premier League this afternoon.

It was a forgettable first half but the visitors snatched the lead out of nothing after the break when Holebas fired home with a sweetly struck shot.

Watford rarely impressed from an attacking perspective but toothless Boro’s lack of end product undoubtedly helped the visitors claim a first clean sheet of the season and a hard-earned three points.

Walter Mazzarri handed Isaac Success his first start for the Hornets after a series of exciting performances from off the bench. Success replaced Odion Ighalo while Miguel Britos returned to the defence in place of Juan Camilo Zuniga.

The first chance fell to Stewart Downing, from a cross by George Friend, but the winger hooked his shot over Heurelho Gomes’ crossbar.

Boro made a bright start and should have hit the target through Gaston Ramirez but he dragged his effort past the post.

Antonio Barragan received the first booking of the match after being penalised for tripping Success.

The home fans berated the referee Roger East, midway through the half, for not awarding a penalty after Younes Kaboul grappled with Alvaro Negredo and the striker tumbled to the ground.

Nordin Amrabat handled the ball from Barragan's cross but the referee waved play on and Downing struck his low half-volley narrowly wide of the target.

Ben Gibson fired in ambitious strike from distance but the defender’s shot flew past Gomes’ post.

Barragan was fortunate not to receive a second yellow card after bringing down Success inside his own half.

Watford Observer:

The hosts had a late half chance through Negredo but his half-volley lacked power and was straight at Gomes.

Middlesbrough had a chance to take the lead early on in the second half through Adam Forshaw but his strike from the edge of the area was straight at Gomes.

Boro stepped up the pressure and Cristhian Stuani blasted his fierce half-volley wide of the upright.

The Hornets grabbed the breakthrough in style after 54 minutes with their first effort on target. The ball was not cleared properly by Middlesbrough and Holebas fired his superb 25-yard strike past goalkeeper Victor Valdes for the opener.

Aitor Karanka’s side were struggling to find a cutting edge and Negredo failed to get enough on his header, from Friend’s cross, which was easily held by Gomes.

Mazzarri made his first change in the final 20 minutes bringing on Zuniga in place of Nordin Amrabat.

Success, who had been relatively quiet, almost clinched the points when he cut inside and struck a powerful shot but Valdes was safely behind the effort.

The hosts were rapidly running out of ideas and a hopeful header from Marten De Roon flew harmlessly wide of the post.

Britos picked up an injury in the last ten minutes and was taken off with Belgium defender Christian Kabasele replacing him.

The Hornets made their final change with Ben Watson introduced in place of Success.

There were six minutes of injury time which sparked hope in the Boro camp of a late equaliser.

But the hosts failed to threaten Watford's goal and the Hornets clinched a victory which sent them into the top half of the table.

Middlesbrough: Valdes; Friend, Gibson, Chambers, Barragan (Ayala, 69); Forshaw, De Roon (Rhodes, 88) Downing, Ramirez, Stuani (Traore, 69); Negredo

Subs not used: Guzan, Bernardo, Clayton, Fischer

Watford: Gomes; Britos (Kabasele, 85), Kaboul, Prodl; Holebas, Behrami, Capoue, Pereyra, Amrabat (Zuniga, 72); Deeney, Success (Watson, 88)

Subs not used: Pantilimon, Mariappa, Guedioura, Ighalo

Referee: Roger East

Attendance: 28,131 (882 Watford fans)