A Troy Deeney penalty gave Watford a slender 1-0 victory over Barnsley as they continued their climb back towards the top of the Championship.

The skipper’s spot kick midway through the first half was enough to divide the two teams come full time and takes the Hornets up to third in the table, just three points behind second place Swansea City.

The win also sees the Hornets put together back-to-back wins for the fourth time this season, a run they are yet to surpass during the current campaign. They will be hoping they can string three victories together for the first time when they face Stoke City on Friday.

Ahead of the match, a selection of the club’s supporters took to social media to voice their frustrations following the announcement of the starting XI, with the misfiring Andre Gray picked up front alongside Deeney in place of Joao Pedro, while there was still no place for new signing Philip Zinckernagel.

The return of Will Hughes brought some positivity to the fans, with Nathaniel Chalobah dropping to the bench to accommodate the returning midfielder who made his first league start since relegation.

Hughes’s introduction was looking like it would pay off early on as he regularly broke down Barnsley possession in the centre and almost created an opening with a clever one-two with Deeney on the edge of the box in the seventh minute, only for Mads Andersen to nick the ball away from him as he was about to pull the trigger.

The former Derby man then played his part in creating another half-chance as his overhit corner was gathered by Tom Cleverley, who recycled possession well and found Kiko Femenia, whose mishit cross almost caught out Jack Walton in the Tykes’ net, only for the ball to just skim over the bar.

Barnsley’s best chance of the opening exchanges suffered a similar fate with Conor Chaplin’s delivery from the right glanced goalwards by Cauley Woodrow, only for Daniel Bachmann to watch it fly over the top of the goalframe behind him.

That was as close as either side had come by the time the midway point in the first half had arrived, with creativity lacking in both teams’ attacking ranks. However, the Hornets were gifted an opener when Callum Brittain stuck his arm out to block a Deeney cross inside the penalty area, leaving referee Tim Robinson with little choice but to point to the spot.

Deeney stepped up and performed his usual trick of blasting the penalty kick with such venom that the goalkeeper could do little to prevent it from ending up in the net.

The goal put Watford in the ascendency and Gray almost produced a moment to silence his doubters after combining well with Deeney and rounding Walton, only for his shot to be cleared away after it bobbled towards the vacant goal from a tight angle. Femenia then tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area shortly after but put his effort just over the top.

Two more chances came Gray’s way before the end of the half, the first of which was created by Ken Sema, who made the most of the pitch’s slippery surface, created by a constant barrage of fine, drizzly rain, with a pass zipped in behind the Barnsley defence, but Walton was quick off his line and blocked the shot from close range.

Then from a Reds’ corner, Watford quickly broke as Cleverley found Ismaila Sarr haring away on the right wing. His cross into the path of Gray could hardly have been more inviting, but the striker’s clipped attempt nestled the wrong side of the post.

Perhaps thankful that they had only conceded once in the first half, Barnsley looked the most dangerous at the beginning of the second. However, Watford’s solid defensive work reduced them to half-chances and their first shot on goal was something of a damp squib, with Callum Styles skewing wide from the edge of the box.

The visitors were then left feeling thankful once again as Gray managed to get the ball in the net, only for the linesman’s flag to rule out the goal. A Watford corner was headed clear by the Tykes, only as far as Hughes, who fired the ball back towards goal hitting the foot of the post. Gray turned the rebound in, but from an offside position.

At the other end Woodrow tried an acrobatic effort from the edge of the area which flew well wide before another of his shots was blocked by Adam Masina as the Hornets continued to defend well and limit the number of chances Barnsley were able to create.

Yet all their hard work was almost undone in an instant, and by one of their own men as well, as Francisco Sierralta headed Alex Mowatt’s whipped cross from the left towards his own goal and Bachmann had to produce an impressive diving save to his left to keep his clean sheet intact.

Another of Watford’s defenders almost put the game beyond doubt at the other end when William Troost-Ekong got on the end of substitute Zinckernagel’s delivery from the right, but his shot spun tantalisingly wide of the far post.

Nevertheless, it wasn't needed and Watford saw out a nervy end to the match to claim three more points.