It was a win. It wasn’t impressive, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t emphatic, but it was a win.

The three points came more from hard graft and resilience than it did from any class or guile, but having been on such a bad run to see Watford display those qualities away from home against a side badly in need of points was as welcome as anything else.

It was, in all honesty, a pretty poor game with moments of quality few and far between from either side.

One of them was decisive as Emmanuel Dennis did what all good strikers should: sniffing a chance when nothing seemed on he pounced on ponderous defending and then took the chance he created with the touch of a proper finisher.

He didn’t do a great deal else, but that was enough to win a game where between them the two sides had 41 attempts on goal  . . . but only nine were on target.

Tom Cleverley’s celebrations on the final whistle were understated, perhaps those of a man who knew that his side can and must player better – but he needed a result and his team gave him just that.

It was a young team too, an average age of 23 years 306 days making it the youngest starting XI have fielded since a game against Coventry on April 2, 2011.

As well as Dennis proving decisive at one end, Dan Bachmann made a save at the other end that was equally important in securing the three points.

There were raised eyebrows before the game when it was confirmed the Austrian would captain the side, and some fans even hoped Cleverley would restore Ben Hamer to the team.

Bachmann won’t have silenced all his critics in this game, but his save to deny Miyoshi on the hour-mark was every bit as vital.

The two central defenders, Mattie Pollock and Ryan Porteous, typified the wholehearted, committed nature of the performance.

They won most headers, got in the way of shots, and when they didn’t get the ball they did enough to make it hard for those in blue shirts.

There is plenty of room for improvement, something Cleverley acknowledged after the final whistle, but in the minds of many this was a ‘must-win’ game.

In those circumstances, sometimes it’s a case of never mind the quality, enjoy the points.

Pollock replaced the suspended Wes Hoedt, while James Morris came in for Jamal Lewis, who has a slight foot problem.

On the bench was Under-18’s defender Albert Eames, a player Cleverley would know well and one who has impressed in the Under-21s this season.

The first half was not a great spectacle with both sides struggling to put together coherent forward moves.

The hosts started the brighter, and in the eighth minute Drameh's cross was cleared but only as far as Miyoshi, who shot wide from the edge of the box.

Then Bacuna's corner from the left was met by Buchanan and his header just cleared the target.

Watford took 20 minutes to get into the game, but improved as the half wore on.

In the 28th minute, from being under pressure in their own box, Watford broke quickly and Ismael Kone sent Yaser Asprilla clear on the right. He got into the box and shot, but it was blocked.

Soon after Tom Dele-Bashiru played the ball into Kone's feet, ran onto the return pass and hit a dipping shot over the bar.

In the next attack Asprilla crossed from the right and Dennis opened his body up to connect but shot across the face of goal.

Miyoshi then sent over a corner from the right, Buchanan headed goalwards and Bachmann dived to save.

Watford made the breakthrough after 43 minutes and it was all about the predatory instincts of Dennis.

He caught Aiwu dithering on the ball just outside the box, stole it off him and then shot over Ruddy.

Right on half-time the striker got away through the middle again, hit a low shot and Ruddy dived to push it round the post.

Early in the second half Asprilla's corner was headed goalwards by Pollock and hacked off the line. The ball ran back to Asprilla, he cut in and shot and the effort was deflected over the top.

James then ran at the heart of the Watford defence, the ball bobbled and landed in the path of Sunjic who dragged his shot wide of the advancing Bachmann.

In the 56th minute Asprilla did superbly to take on and beat his full-back, bursting into the area and along the by-line – but he tried to shoot from a very tight angle when dragging the ball back might have been better, and Ruddy blocked.

Bachmann produced a superb save after an hour when, following a scramble in the box, the ball ran to Miyoshi who let fly with a real rocket, but the Watford keeper took off and pushed it away to his left.

Edo Kayembe jinked into the box and slid a pass to sub Vakoun Bayo who, stretching, turned it across the face of goal and wide of the back post.

James slid a pass in behind the Watford defence but Miyoshi steered his shot past Bachmann and also past the back post, before Kayembe sent Martins away down the left and then fired a shot from the return pass that Vakoun Bayo tried to steer goalwards but could only lift it onto the roof of the net.

Birmingham tried to pile forward but for all their efforts they threatened infrequently, their best effort in the closing stages coming when two Watford players rushed into tackles and didn't win them, but when Roberts ran on and hit a shot, it was straight at Bachmann.

Watford: Bachmann; Andrews, Porteous, Pollock, Morris; Dele-Bashiru, Kayembe, Kone (Martins 77); Asprilla (Sierralta 88), Dennis (Bayo 62), Chakvetadze (Ince 77). Subs: Hamer, Livermore, Rajovic, Eames, Grieves