A wake-up call, a slap round the face - or as Valerien Ismael described it, a cold shower – the first 20 minutes against Norwich were so bad it sent shudders down the spine that were not connected to the temperature.

The Canaries scored with their first two goal attempts of the game and, at that point, anyone watching on Sky at home might have been reaching for the remote to see what else was on.

You only have to think back to last season and the lack of backbone in the squad to recall situations where such a 2-0 deficit would have been game over, even with 78 minutes still to play.

Yet this Watford squad is made of sterner stuff, and they fought back to end up fully deserving of a 3-2 win that could even have been more emphatic.

“I said to the guys after the game ‘thank you’,” Ismael admitted.

“I am really proud of the boys because we got a cold shower after 12 minutes with not really big chances from the opponent – a set piece and one shot – and you go 2-0 down.

“The boys stayed calm and the most important thing was to stick to the game plan, because the game was not really started for us.

“If we kept playing, we stayed on our game, minute after minute and stay calm, then you score the first goal, you score the second goal and then you saw we dominated.

“We should have scored another before half-time as well.

“But at half-time I said to the boys that I was really proud of them to come back into the game, but we needed to finish the job.

“We had come back from far away to get back into the game, and we had to now finish the job off.

“We dominated Norwich completely in the second half. Maybe at the end it was a little bit hectic but sometimes that is normal.

“I think we deserved completely to win the game with a great team performance and great mentality. The more difficult it was the more the players stick together.

“They stay focussed on the game plan, they were calm and it’s a great win because of the way we managed the situation.”

Ismael said he started the 78 minutes after Norwich had humbled the Hornets by ignoring the score.

“I think at 2-0 we actually started to play our game,” he said.

“The players remained calm and stuck to the game plan, and bit by bit they came back into the game.

“We had to forget the scoreline actually and to just stick to the game plan. Once we scored a goal, we wanted to then come back quickly with the second.

“When that happened we knew were back in the game and we went on to dominate and take control.

“We showed similar character against Middlesbrough but we lost that game.

“This time we took it to our advantage and the attitude of the players, the trust they had in each other to continue passing the ball and not start blaming each other.”

It was also rare to see the Watford head coach wait until the 83rd minute to make any changes.

“The game always dictates the substitutions,” he said.

“The feeling was always that we had momentum there.

“I said at half-time that we had to go out and finish the job, and they gave me the feeling they were on it and wanted to go out and do it well.

“They wanted to go back out and deal with the situation.”

While it’s painful to do so, there had to be reflection on the first Norwich goal and the awful handling of a set piece again.

“I think on this one we got caught on a block at the back post,” said the Watford boss.

“It’s always the set pieces. The opponents come with tricky ones and you always have to deal with that.

“It’s part of the game that we will continue to work on and to make sure we are more stable.

“But set pieces won’t take away the good feeling we have after the win tonight.”