Beppe Sannino’s first FA Cup game is currently 0-0 although a Lewis McGugan-inspired Watford have gone close to scoring on several occasions against Bristol City.
Injuries and expired loan deals meant Sannino made three changes to his starting XI at Ashton Gate. Nyron Nosworthy replaced Lloyd Doyley at right-sided centre half, Iriney came in for George Thorne and Cristian Battocchio started at left wing-back, with Hector Bellerin ineligible after he joined on loan until the end of the season.
There were five academy graduates on the bench, with Doyley joined by Jonathan Bond, Luke O’Nien, Connor Smith, Uche Ikpeazu and Harry kyprianou, who is a first-year scholar.
McGugan mishit a shot early on after bursting into the box but the home team started reasonably well and it was City who were first to test the opposition goalkeeper. Iriney’s misplaced pass allowed Sam Baldock to gather the ball and he forced Manuel Almunia to save his deflected shot.
Battocchio started reasonably well at left wing back and he cut in from the flank before having a dipping shot held by Elliot Parish.
Bristol City arguably edged the opening quarter but McGugan should have at least tested Parish when he beat a couple of defenders on his way into the box, instead firing over the bar from 15 yards.
McGugan was the standout performer in the first half and struck a curling effort from 20 yards which was heading for the top corner before Parish tipped the ball over the bar.
The likes of Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid were causing Watford problems from the wide areas and when Bryan’s delivery reached the six-yard box, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was unable to direct his header goalwards.
Diego Fabbrini endured a frustrating half. Moments of excellent play were interspersed with incidents of diving and losing possession under minimal duress.
One jinking run from Fabbrini ended with the forward laying the ball off for McGugan but his shot from 12 yards was blocked.
The resulting corner was half cleared and Battocchio’s cross was headed against the crossbar by Gabriele Angella, although the Watford centre half wanted a penalty.
Bristol City could have grabbed the opener in first-half injury-time when Watford didn’t deal with Reid’s free-kick but Karleigh Osborne was unable to make decent contact with his header.
Bristol City line-up: Parish; Osborne, Flint, Fontaine, Wagstaff; Elliott, Reid, Pack, Bryan; Emmanuel-Thomas, Baldock.
Subs: Fielding, Cunningham, Carey, Moloney, Wynter, Burns, Taylor.
Watford line-up: Almunia; Nosworthy, Angella, Ekstrand; Cassetti (Smith HT), Murray, Iriney, McGugan, Battocchio; Deeney, Fabbrini.
Subs: Bond, Kyprianou, Doyley, O'Nien, Ikpeazu, Acuna.
Refere: Paul Tierney.
Attendance: 10,165 (1,626).
Follow the second-half action here.