They called him Super Mac at Cardiff City – and on this evidence it isn’t hard to see why.
Given little chance of playing again in November, let alone at Watford, Kevin McNaughton was not a name anyone expected to pop up on the team-sheet before kick-off.
A hamstring injury looked to have sidelined the experienced Scot for a month, apparently leading Dougie Freedman into a shake-up of his much-improved back four at Vicarage Road.
But whether McNaughton’s proposed absence was an elaborate ruse or testament to some amazing powers of recovery – the Wanderers boss was left more than happy that he had left the final decision down to the player himself.
“Kevin didn’t train all week but had a little jog on Thursday and trained really light on Friday,” he explained.
“It came down to a decision that I made with him, being an experienced professional, and he felt he could go out there and give it a go.
“If it was a gamble then it has paid off because again he didn’t put one foot wrong in the whole 90 minutes.”
Unbeaten since arriving on loan from Cardiff, McNaughton played his part again in a stubborn, organised and resilient defensive performance rather par for the course away from the Reebok these days.
Birmingham, Bournemouth and now Watford have been out-witted by Wanderers on their travels and Freedman feels he now has options to change his side’s approach according to their opponents.
“We’re definitely on a roll,” he said.
“We feel quite confident when teams want to mix it with us or try to out-nous us.
“I’m starting to feel this is a team I’m building and the players are starting to believe in what we are trying to do.
“That has been done on the training ground. It hasn’t just popped up.
“When people were maybe having a bit of time off over the international break, we worked hard.
“Watford are a good team and Gianfranco is a good manager who changed things two or three times in the game.
“I’m really pleased with the players because of their concentration levels, the distances they were defending at in midfield, the fact they were not diving into tackles. That was a win for the system.
“But I think we can get better. In the last 10 minutes I thought some of our decision making going forward could have been better.
“That is something that needs to improve but we’ve got a threat and that’s three wins away from home where we’ve looked reasonably solid and looked to get another goal on the break rather than just holding on.”