Watford completed their preparations for the start of the new season with an entertaining 3-2 victory over newly-promoted Serie A side Parma at Vicarage Road this afternoon.

Central defender Massimo Paci put the visitors in front after Scott Loach had failed to deal with a free-kick from Nicolas Cordova, but two goals in the space of three minutes before the interval turned the game in the Hornets’ favour.

First star man Tommy Smith, making his first start of pre-season, was in the right place to slot home after a Tamas Priskin effort had been parried, and then Smith turned provider for new signing Danny Graham to continue his hot pre-season streak.

The Hornets made it 3-1 seven minutes after the restart when Priskin capitalised on a goalmouth scramble, but a thunderbolt from highly-rated Kenyan McDonald Mariga then gave the visitors hope.

Watford started positively, looking to retain possession against the Italians, who deployed a 4-3-3 formation, with left-back Paolo Castellini seeking to push on whenever possible.

The Hornets’ fans were given a glimpse of what Parma are capable of in the opening stages when central midfielder Cordova sprayed a superb 50-yard pin-point pass out to right-sided forward Jonathan Biabiany. But it was the home side who had the first glimpse of an opening in the eighth minute with a neat set-piece move straight off the training ground.

Don Cowie clipped a free-kick from a central position towards Scott Severin in the penalty area, he headed down and Graham flicked the ball back towards Priskin, but the Hungarian was beaten to it before he could get in an attempt.

It was the Serie A side - cheered on by a small, but vocal band of followers - that won the first corner in the 14th minute when a loose pass from Smith was seized on by Davide Lanzafame, who burst clear down the left and rounded Jay DeMerit before seeing his cut-back put behind. Loach though, got good distance on his clearing punch from Cordova’s corner.

Smith sought to atone for that error moments later when he picked up the ball outside the Parma box and opened up a shooting opportunity with his left foot that was deflected wide of the near post. Like his counterpart though, keeper Antonio Mirante comfortably dealt with the resultant set-piece.

The Hornets sought to build up some momentum, with Ross Jenkins lashing a shot over after Priskin had tried to create an opening with some neat footwork inside the box.

But it was Loach who was the first keeper called into meaningful action in the 21st minute when he had to go to ground to hold onto a well-struck effort from Alberto Paloschi. Soon after, Lanzafame picked out Paloschi with a great ball across the area from left to right, but the angle was always against the Under-21 international striker and he fired over from the right side of the six-yard box.

Parma had settled into their stride by this stage and were keeping possession well for periods, but it was from a set-piece that they made the breakthrough in the 28th minute.

Cordova hit a free-kick right-footed from almost 30 yards that appeared to deceive Loach, and the Watford keeper could only parry it back towards the edge of the six-yard box where centre-half Paci reacted quickest to score. More worryingly, the Hornets keeper was caught by a boot in trying to save the follow-up, but after a minute or so of treatment he was able to continue.

The Hornets though, were almost back on terms within five minutes. After Priskin had been clattered into by Castellini, Severin clipped the free-kick towards the centre of the area where Mike Williamson rose well to head narrowly past Mirante’s right-hand post. However, less then 60 seconds later, Watford were level.

Adrian Mariappa was played in on the right flank and he struck a good, deep cross which Severin knocked down to Priskin in space in the area. The Hungarian adjusted to his body position to fire in a left-footed half-volley which Mirante could only parry to his left and, sensing his opportunity, Smith was already in the right place to carry on from where he left off last season and make it 1-1.

And, within three minutes, the Hornets – much to the annoyance of their opponents – were in front.

Priskin was clearly being fouled as he sought to retain possession close to the right touchline – and the referee’s assistant duly flagged for the offence – but referee Kevin Friend played the advantage as the Parma defence lost concentration momentarily, enabling Priskin to find Smith in plenty of space on the right side of the area. The Hornets’ goalscorer could have gone it alone but he unselfishly squared for Graham to easily convert his fifth goal in as many pre-season games, leaving the visitors fuming and their keeper, in particular, who was booked for his protestations.

It could, and perhaps should, have got even better for Watford two minutes before the interval when Smith, who was by now pulling his side’s attacking strings, fed Cowie on the left flank and the Scot played in a good cross which Jenkins met first with a header that he glanced the wrong side of Mirante’s left-hand post.

The Hornets had another opportunity in stoppage-time when a corner from the left was deliberately played deep to Williamson, who headed back into the danger zone, but Graham was unable to get sufficient power on his downward header and Mirante saved comfortably.

Surprisingly for a friendly, neither side made any substitutions at the interval, although the visitors soon had some replacements warming up.

Biabiany had the first attempt of the second period, twisting and turning before seeing a right-footed effort deflected behind, but the Hornets were soon back on the front foot and in the 52nd minute opened up a 3-1 lead.

Severin fired in a free-kick from the right edge of the area that Graham narrowly failed to make contact with as it passed him, a combination of Mirante and a defender blocked it, but Watford managed to work the ball loose from a scramble and Priskin kept his composure to find the bottom right-hand corner.

Parma made the first change just short of the hour-mark when skipper Stefano Morrone was replaced Alessio Manzoni and then, bizarrely, they decided to change keepers just as the Hornets were about to take a corner. Replacement Nicola Pavarini was ultimately untroubled from the set-piece, but that was only because a Jenkins piledriver from the edge of the area was blocked.

Instead of falling behind 4-1, Parma reduced the deficit to 3-2 in the 64th minute thanks to a rocket from the boot of a Kenyan that even had the Hornets fans applauding. Midfielder Mariga connected superbly with a 20-yard drive that flew past Loach and went in after crashing off the underside of the crossbar.

The action kept coming, with Graham finding the net for a second time moments later, but referee Friend ruled a free-kick from the left edge of the area had been taken too quickly. But when Cowie did ‘legally’ take the set-piece, his right-footed curling effort was destined for the far corner until Pavarini dived to push it behind.

Manzoni picked up Parma’s second yellow card in the 70th minute for chopping down Jenkins, before Cowie tested Pavarini again – this time with a 30-yard free-kick from a central position.

Nathan Ellington received a mixed reception when he entered the fray for Priskin with 18 minutes remaining, but the Hornets were almost undone soon after when Manzoni was picked out in the heart of the area by Paloschi, but a combination of Williamson and Loach managed to repel the danger.

But Pavarini again got the better of his personal duel with Cowie with 11 minutes remaining when he stood up well to keep out a firmly-struck right-footed effort from the Hornets midfielder following Smith’s ball in from the right.

Watford thought they had made it four again with seven minutes remaining when Castellini could only head Cowie’s cross from the left back to Smith on the right side of the area, and his low centre was converted by Graham. But the linesman, correctly, had his flag up for offside.

After Parma had made a double change, one of those replacements, Manuel Coppola, received a booking for leaving his foot in on Cowie. He then made way for Jon Harley, while Michael Bryan replaced Graham and Lee Hodson came on for Adrian Mariappa.

Watford: Loach; Mariappa (Hodson, 88), DeMerit, Williamson, Doyley; Smith, Jenkins, Severin, Cowie (Harley, 88); Graham (Bryan, 88), Priskin (Ellington, 72). Not used: Travner, Lee and Henderson.

Parma: Mirante (Pavarini, 61); Zenoni, Paci, Lucarelli, Castellini (Antonelli, 83); Morrone (Manzoni, 59), Cordova (Coppola, 83), Mariga; Biabiany, Paloschi, Lanzafame. Not used: Lunardini, Leon, Dellafiore, Budel and Paponi.

Bookings: Mirante for protesting after 37 mins; Manzoni for a foul on Jenkins after 70 mins; Coppola for a foul on Cowie after 88 mins.

Attendance: 3,598.

Referee: Kevin Friend.