A Watford squad shorn of four senior players but with the addition of some Academy youngsters will head north to Middlesbrough tomorrow (Friday) ahead of Saturday's match.

The final game of the season sees the Hornets make one of their longest away trips, and the 12.30pm kick-off time is particularly harsh on fans making the journey.

New head coach Tom Cleverley will be without Ryan Porteous, Giorgi Chakvetadze, Emmanuel Dennis and Tom Dele-Bashiru, and has added some of the club’s homegrown talent to the party.

“Porteous is a case of a bit of protection for the summer ahead, but also he’s been on 14 yellow cards for a while and I don’t really want to lose him for the first three games of next season,” Cleverley explained.

“Giorgi has had this ongoing groin issue and he’s another player that I know how huge this summer means to him. So I won’t risk him.

“Dennis has picked up a knee issue and isn’t fit to travel.

“The situation with Tom is something that we’ve tried to manage, as he’s a player that has had a difficult time with injuries.

“I respect him as a player a lot, and we’re managing him though a period of burn-out and niggles.

“I thought you could see in his performance at Southampton that he looked like someone who is burning out.

“He is a player that we’re managing through to the end of the season, and he won’t be in the matchday squad on Saturday.

“So we go there with a couple of Academy products in the squad, and that’s exciting for everyone.”

Barring some freakish scorelines, Watford will end the campaign somewhere between 13th and 16th in the Championship, depending upon final-day results.

“Obviously we want to end the season with a really positive performance. We won last weekend but I didn’t think it was a great performance,” Cleverley admitted.

“We certainly need to improve in possession and that’ll be a big part of our pre-season project.

“We’ve been fantastic at the back, sometimes with last-ditch defending and some great saves, but we’ve kept five clean sheets in eight.

“I really respect Middlesbrough and I think they’ll be in the mix next season with the good balance of talent and experience they have.

“So I want us to lay one last marker down against a team I think will be challenging next season.”

Having watched last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Sunderland again during the week, Cleverley came away with a couple of key bullet points.

“We have to deal with setbacks in games, whether that’s going behind or losing our rhythm, and how you get the momentum back,” he said.

“And secondly there were too many individual errors, mainly in the final third.

“We couldn’t sustain any pressure because we’d get into good positions and then make an individual mistake.

“It wasn’t a good day for many of our forward-thinking players and we struggled to get any real rhythm from about 25 minutes onwards.”

With nothing much to play for other than league position, it could be a low-key afternoon at the Riverside, but Cleverley is aware of the demands the kick-off time and travel has on Watford fans.

“This is the nature of this league. Last week Sunderland come to us, this week we go to Middlesbrough,” he said.

“It’s not ideal for the fans, with it being a 12.30pm kick-off.

“The players are in a good spirit though. I’ve not once had to squeeze them for enthusiasm since I’ve been in the job and at this stage of the season, that’s healthy.”