Watford marked their return to the Championship and Rob Edwards’ first competitive match in charge with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United on Monday night.
The only goal of an engaging encounter on a humid night at Vicarage Road came after 56 minutes, when Joao Pedro swept in at the end of a slick counter-attack.
Teenage forward Daniel Jebbison had the Blades’ best chance when he forced Daniel Bachmann to push a shot over the bar just before the break, but once the visitors fell behind, they never really looked capable of a response.
How Watford picked up three points under the lights
Every team goes into the opening match of a season with the intention of starting with a win, but for these two teams there was even more impetus given the way in which their respective campaigns had concluded.
Watford’s return to the top flight was punctuated by two new managerial appointments and ended in relegation, while the Blades’ impressive revival under Paul Heckingbottom was brought to an end by Nottingham Forest in the play-off semi-finals.
The packed away end fell silent after five minutes when Ismaila Sarr rippled the side-netting after being released by Emmanuel Dennis and the hosts continued to create openings after that, though Dennis looked to the skies in frustration on numerous occasions, unable to shake the rustiness of pre-season.
Joao Pedro then forced a low save out of Wes Foderingham with a flicked header, but the best chance of the half fell to Sheffield United on the stroke of half-time as Jebbison’s nonchalant first-time shot after a breakneck counter was tipped over by Bachmann.
The decisive moment came 10 minutes after the restart – and it went in Watford’s favour. The ball was worked down the right after a rapid counter, with Ismaila Sarr collecting a pass from Dennis and laying it on a plate for Joao Pedro to sweep home.
Heckingbottom introduced Billy Sharp late on to try and force a point, while his opposite number handed a debut for ex-Barcelona man Rey Manaj, but with defences on top in the closing stages, the game was settled by the solitary goal.
Sheffield United host Millwall at Bramall Lane at 3pm on Saturday August 6, while Watford travel to The Hawthorns to take on West Brom at 8pm on Monday August 8.