Pre-Season: Stevenage 0-1 Watford
Andre Gray found the net late on as Watford battled to a win against Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium.
The substitute striker converted from close-range after persistent work from Roberto Pereyra teed him up with an easy opportunity.
The Hornets were well on top in the first half, with chances aplenty for Javi Gracia’s side in their first pre-season friendly back on home soil after returning from Austria.
Ben Wilmot gave his former employers a scare early on, dragging a low driven shot wide of Paul Farman’s right post.
Will Hughes then had an effort parried away – the first in a string of saves in an inspired performance by the Stevenage goalkeeper – with Sebastian Prödl’s header from the resultant corner tipped away one-handed.
Alex Jakubiak, starting off the back of three goals in as many Under-23 friendlies, was the next to find the space to shoot, but could only find the side-netting with his angled drive.
Hughes was then at it again, stinging Farman’s palms with a fierce drive from the edge of the area after half an hour had been played.
Jakubiak, too, had a second bite at the cherry and was superbly denied by the feet of the Stevenage goalkeeper as he tried to slide it under Farman one-on-one.
Heurelho Gomes was, finally, forced into making a save with five minutes to go in the first half, when the towering Ben Nugent headed towards goal from a free-kick deep in the Hornets’ territory – the last action of a dominant first-half showing for the Golden Boys.
A better second period from the hosts saw them threaten from several set-pieces, but there were few clear-cut chances for either side.
Gomes made a smart reflex save from an Alex Revell header in the box shortly after the resumption in play, while substitute Pereyra found he had no more luck than those who left the pitch when his delightful curling shot was swatted away by the Boro goalkeeper.
But the game was finally won when Farman made a rare mistake – Pereyra took advantage, crossing for Gray to head home at the back post, virtually on the goal-line, with a near-identical goal to his header against Newcastle at the tail-end of last season.
The Golden Boys will be back in action again this weekend, when they face Brentford at Griffin Park on Saturday July 28, 3pm KO.
HORNETS | Gomes (GK); Navarro (Janmaat, 61), Prödl (Cathcart, 61), Mariappa (Britos, 61), Masina (Holebas, 61); Hughes, Rodwell (Charles, 61), Wilmot (Capoue, 61), Sema (Pereyra, 61); Jakubiak (Success, 61), Deeney (c) (Gray, 61).
Subs not used: Bachmann (GK), Kabasele.