MATCH REPORT: Dundee United 0 - 1 Watford
A SECOND HALF strike from captain Troy Deeney was enough to see Watford secure a 1-0 win against Dundee United.
Deeney’s header in the 53rd minute was the difference between the two sides in tough conditions at Tannadice Park.
Watford used the game to give a run out to all members of the travelling squad, with Quique Sanchez Flores using all available substitutions throughout the course of the game.
Flores named a strong starting XI against the Scottish Premier League outfit, and wasted no time introducing his new signings to the team.
This meant a start for former Spartak Moscow midfielder Jose Manuel Jurado, who was the only Watford player to play the full match, although fellow new Hornet Miguel Britos wasn’t named in the match day squad.
Meanwhile, Heurelho Gomes returned in goal for the Hornets and was protected by Jose Holebas, Craig Cathcart, Sebastian Proedl and Allan Nyom, the same back-four that started the match against SC Paderborn 07 in their last pre-season outing.
They were in turn shielded by the pairing of Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami in defensive midfield, with Ikechi Anya, Odion Ighalo and Jurado just behind captain Troy Deeney.
The opening exchanges saw few chances for either side, although Gomes did need the help of defender Craig Cathcart after the keeper took a heavy touch from a back pass.
It took until the 18th minute for the Hornets to carve out their first real chance and it fell to new signing Jurado. Troy Deeney did well to release Ikechi Anya down the right flank and the Scotsman’s cross found Jurado at the back post, but he could only steer his effort narrowly wide on the stretch.
This seemed to spur the Hornets on as they began to play more fluently and dominated the rest of the first half.
The Hornets front men continued to cause problems for the Dundee United defence, and the next chance fell to the ever lively Odion Ighalo.
Jurado was heavily involved again as he released Anya down the right with a delightful ball who this time found Ighalo in the penalty-box, but his snap shot was well saved by home keeper Luis Zwick.
Zwick was then called into action again from the resulting corner, making a fantastic reflex save from Deeney’s powerful header.
Ighalo was continuing to create opportunities for himself, narrowly firing over in the 25th minute before forcing Zwick into another good save on the stroke of half-time.
Flores made six changes at the break, replacing Heurelho Gomes, Allan Nyom, Jose Holebas, Valon Behrami, Ikechi Anya and Odion Ighalo with Giedrius Arlauskis, Juan Carlos Paredes, Daniel Pudil, Ben Watson, Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra.
Despite the substitutions, the Hornets picked up where they left off at the end of the first-half and it took them less than ten minutes to break the deadlock.
A quick free kick on the left hand side set Jurado free whose pinpoint cross found Deeney unmarked six-yards out, and the captain made no mistake as he planted a firm header past Zwick and into the back of the net.
Watford were beginning to show their quality, and Almen Abdi very nearly doubled the lead just three minutes later, but he fired narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Dundee United did come close on 62 minutes, but substitute John Souttar could only fire over from the edge of the box when presented with a good chance.
It took the home-side until the 70th minute to seriously threaten the Hornets goal and register their first shot on target. A foul by Ben Watson on the edge of the area allowed Charlie Telfer a strike on goal, forcing Arlauskis into a smart low save.
The Lithuanian international was forced into action three minutes later, this time producing an even better save to keep the scores level. The substitute goalkeeper somehow managed to get a fingertip onto Chris Erksine’s powerful effort, diverting the ball round the post.
It was the home keeper’s turn to be called into action next, as the impressive Jurado tried his luck from long range, forcing Zwick to save well to his right.
Dundee United did come close in the 93rd minute, thanks to a Blair Spittal shot which powered narrowly wide of the post.
A raft of substitutions saw head-coach Flores utilise the whole of his match day squad, as the Hornets held out for a deserved victory.
HORNETS: Gomes (Arlauskis 45); Nyom (Abdi 45) Cathcart (Belkalem 87) Proedl (Angella 65), Holebas (Pudil 45), Capoue (Murray 85), Behrami (Paredes 45), Jurado, Anya (Vydra 45), Ighalo (Watson 45), Deeney (c) (Hoban 66)
DUNDEE UNITED: Zwick, Dillon, Durnan (Souttar 60), Donaldson, Dixon (Bilate 65), Paton (Spittal 72), Fraser (Erksine 65), Connolly, Bodul, Uirhead (Telfer 72), Murray