By Adam Shergold for MailOnline
Published: 21:37 BST, 11 September 2020 | Updated: 21:57 BST, 11 September 2020
After their season of manager roulette ended with ignominious relegation from the Premier League, here was a hint of stability - even positivity - for Watford.
Craig Cathcart ensured their return to Championship football after five years was a soft-landing rather than a bump as new boss Vladimir Ivic claimed his first three points in English football.
It’s early days of course and the remaining weeks of the transfer window will bring further upheaval, but Watford proved just about superior to a Middlesbrough team who you sense would be more than content with mid-table anonymity.
Craig Cathcart is congratulated by his team-mates after he put Watford in the lead
Cathcart found the net with a header in the eleventh minute of the clash at Vicarage Road
Middlesbrough's Anfernee Dijksteel competes for possession with Joao Pedro of Watford
Watford were the more vibrant side before half-time before retreating after the break. Middlesbrough saw chances come and go, with Britt Assombalonga their most dangerous player, but Watford showed a resoluteness often missing last season.
Watford find themselves in a state of flux and the line-up was a curious mix of top-flight mainstays and fresh faces.
Watford's Jeremy Ngakia looks to win the ball while under pressure from Marvin Johnson
The likes of Troy Deeney, Danny Welbeck, Ismaila Sarr and Will Hughes were among a raft of players absent here through a combination of injury, lack of match fitness or simply sitting in the departure lounge waiting for a move before the window shuts next month.
Ivic, who lost just two league matches while winning back-to-back Israeli titles with former club Maccabi Tel Aviv, has vowed that Watford will dominate possession and play on the front foot.
Watford (3-4-2-1): Foster; Wilmot, Cathcart, Kabasele; Ngakia, Chalobah, Cleverley (c), Femenia (Navarro 75); Sema (Murray 66), Quina (Phillips 90); Joao Pedro
Substitutes not used: Bachmann (GK); Sierralta, Pussetto, Sinclair
Manager: Vladimir Ivic
Scorer: Cathcart 11