With just seven days to go until the new campaign gets under way, Dundee United assistant manager Simon Donnelly insisted they would be ready in time for their opening-day fixture with Aberdeen despite this latest defeat.
The Tangerines went down to newly-promoted Watford as Troy Deeney’s 53rd minute header settled this final-warm up game before next Sunday’s visit of the Dons to Tayside.
United finished fifth in the table last season so are bidding to improve on that and Donnelly is confident they can hit the ground running after watching them go down narrowly to Quique Flores’ outfit at Tannadice yesterday following their midweek defeat away to Queens Park Rangers.
“The lads are champing at the bit for the Aberdeen game,” said Donnelly afterwards.
“We want to get into the real stuff now. I think we’ve prepared well and the new lads who’ve come in have gelled.
“We were up against a Watford team going to play in the Premiership this season. I thought we did well at times and looked threatening in the last half-hour of the game.”
United handed a first start to Austrian ace Darko Bodul, having signed him earlier in the week, but new signing Rodney Sneijder wasn’t to be seen, having put pen to paper on the morning of the game.
Summer signings Mark Durnan and Coll Donaldson were at the heart of the Tangerines defence while 21-year-old German Luis Zwick started between the sticks as he attempts to make the No.1 jersey his own.
For Watford, Scotland star Ikechi Anya was just off the front and he helped create the first real scoring opportunity in 20 minutes.
Anya showed decent pace down the right before crossing into the six-yard box, where new signing Jose Manuel Jurado was unmarked. But with the goal gaping, the former Spartak Moscow ace stabbed the ball wide.
A few minutes later, Anya was in the thick of the action again as he tore into the final third and crossed for Odion Ighalo, but Zwick denied the visitors the lead with a reflex save from point-blank range.
Watford were shading it but United did test the opposition as half-time approached when youngster Scott Fraser hit a long-range free kick which Hornets goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was relieved to see clear his crossbar.
At the other end, Ighalo carved out another half-chance by working his way through the United defence, but again Zwick thwarted him with a diving save.
Watford finally made the breakthrough soon after in simplest fashion as Manuel Jurado’s cross from the left was met by Deeney, whose downward header beat Zwick from close range.
United, though, almost equalised in 73 minutes when substitute Blair Spittal set up fellow sub Chris Erskine, whose low drive from 18 yards looked netbound, only for Watford ’keeper Giedrius Arlavskis to produce a fingertip save low to his left.
The hosts came close again in the dying seconds but Spittal’s shot went inches wide from Charlie Telfer’s set-up.
Dundee United: Zwick, Dillon, Durnan, Donaldson, Dixon, Paton (Rankin 60), Fraser (Souttar 60), Connolly (Erskine 60), Bodul (Spittal 60), Muirhead (Telfer 60), Murray (Bilate 60).
Watford starting XI: Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Prodl, Holebas, Behrami, Manuel Jurado, Capoue, Anya, Deeney, Ighalo.
Referee: Kevin Graham.