A late Joao Pedro wonder goal gave Watford a 1-0 win over Derby County at Pride Park after what was, for the most part, a dismal game of football.

The Brazilian curled home from the edge of the area with the Hornets first and only shot on target with little more than ten minutes remaining to paper over the cracks of an otherwise uninspiring and disjointed display.

The win was achieved despite some big name absences, which perhaps could go some way to explaining the lacklustre performance. After rejecting a late deadline day approach from Crystal Palace for Ismaila Sarr, the winger did not travel with the group, nor did returning midfielder Etienne Capoue, who is available again after rescinding a transfer request but injured his ankle in training the day before the match.

Instead a debut was handed to defender William Troost-Ekong with Craig Cathcart dropping to the bench, while Tom Cleverley and Domingos Quina replaced James Garner and the injured Tom Dele-Bashiru from the defeat at Reading.

Neither side were able to impose themselves fully in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, with Kiko Femenia’s volley from a cleared Ken Sema free-kick the best chance created. That carried a greater risk of clearing the South Stand than of going into David Marshall’s net.

At the other end, Wayne Rooney’s corner bounced tantalisingly across the Watford six-yard-box, but no one in white was in the vicinity to apply a finishing touch.

Rooney caused further problems from another dead ball situation when Nathaniel Chalobah gave away a free-kick on the corner of the box moments later.

The initial shot deflected behind off Pedro for a corner, but after the resulting delivery was half-cleared by the Hornets the former Manchester United man returned the ball back into the danger zone where a lack of communication saw George Evans head harmlessly at Ben Foster when Curtis Davies was in a much more advantageous position behind him.

Watford meanwhile were having problems linking defence and attack through the midfield and instead looked most threatening down the Rams’ left-hand-side, with Femenia and Sema linking up with great intuition.

When the former found the latter inside the penalty area, he just needed to pick out Pedro in the centre, but Evans was alert and nicked in before the Brazilian could apply the requisite finish.

The Hornets' midfield struggles continued and almost gifted the hosts the lead shortly before half-time, with Tom Cleverley playing an ill-conceived pass across the park that went straight to the feet of Jason Knight. He found Rooney, whose pass from the left picked out Duane Holmes on the edge of the area, but he failed to keep his shot down and Ben Foster was relieved to see it fly over the bar.

Cleverley then had a go from range himself in the penultimate minute of the half, but that too was well over the top.

The Hornets looked marginally more threatening in the second-half, but once again creativity was not exactly their forte. As the game approached the hour mark, a half-hearted shout for a penalty was about as much as they had to show for their efforts, with Chalobah’s driven strke ricocheting off Evans’s hands from very close range. The midfielder’s vocal protestations were waved away by referee Geoff Eltringham.

In terms of shots on goal, neither side had mustered an effort on target with 25 minutes left on the clock. Derby’s best chance came from Rooney working the ball to Knight in space about 25 yards out, but his ambitious strike skewed wide.

Nevertheless the Rams seemed on top at this point and did create the first shot on target ten minutes later with substitute Tom Lawrence spinning away from Cathcart, but his effort was tame and straight at Foster. At the other end, Chalobah’s free-kick from 35 yards out was even less threatening, lacking quality and whistling over the top.

There was no quality lacking from Pedro’s strike that finally broke the deadlock in the 75th minute however. Ben Wilmot carried the ball deep into Derby territory where he found the Brazilian lurking on the edge of the area. A quick shinmy opened up some space for the shot and the 19-year-old curled a wonderful effort into the top corner to bag his second for the club.

Time was on Watford's side, but they still had work to do to see the game out and the Rams could, and really should, have cut their celebrations short almost immediately when Lawrence found Rooney bursting through the middle, but the former England captain’s shot was off target with just Foster in front of him.

Domingos Quina then had the chance to put the game to bed with ten minutes left when he cut in from the right, but he guided his shot wide of the goal setting up a nervy end to the match for the Hornets.

However, they held on with Derby throwing little at them, bar a dipping Rooney free-kick in stoppage time, and continued their strong start to the season.