The Watford boss suggested the fact Abdoulaye Doucoure was able to get through 90 minutes yesterday was indicative of the the amount of hard work his players had done during pre-season.

Javi Gracia opted to pitch the Hornets Player of the Season straight into the heat of Premier League battle despite the midfielder not having any match minutes in pre-season having missed part of the build-up to the new campaign due to appendicitis.

The lack of friendly minutes showed at times during the first half of the 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, but the Frenchman was more like his usual self after the break and will only have benefited from getting a full 90 minutes under his belt.

Asked whether it was a gamble to start Doucoure without having played him in a friendly, Gracia responded: “He started working with the team and in Austria it was when he was injured, but before he had worked very hard as well. Doucuoure and the rest of the team have done very good work this pre-season.

“I told you before the game they had to keep the level of press today and the same attitude for 90 minutes, I think they deserve congratulations.”

Ben Foster was the only summer signing to be included in the starting XI and such was the strong nature of his teammate’s performance, the former Watford loanee enjoyed a relatively quiet afternoon in his first competitive appearance in a Hornets shirt since May 2007.

Gracia said: “Ben Foster, everybody knows is a very good goalkeeper with the experience to manage different situations.

“Today, it’s true they didn’t have a shot on target but I know he gives us experience, good play with his feet and it’s a good option for us.”