Beppe Sannino admitted Watford started their game against Reading “45 minutes late” after his team paid the price for a lacklustre first half in a 1-0 defeat at Vicarage Road.

Kaspars Gorkss headed home the decisive goal for the visitors after just five minutes and the Hornets were lethargic throughout the first period.

Sannino’s men improved after the break but couldn’t find an equaliser and the Italian was disappointed with his team’s opening.

“We played only one half,” he said.

“We started the game 45 minutes late and I am disappointed for the supporters and for my group - I hope this will be a starting point to learn and improve.

“I would like to see my players always play good football – nice and simple football but we were a bit slow today and had difficulty coming out with the ball.

“We played a lot of passes backwards and that is the point I didn’t like today.”

The Hornets created a handful of excellent chances in the second period as Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri both spurned opportunities from close range.

“What I saw in the second half gives me a lot of positives for the future,” Sannino continued.

“But also I am really disappointed because we could have played better in the first half.”

Alexander Merkel was sent off in the 94th minute on his debut for the club.

The young midfielder was already on a yellow card and was then handed a straight red for a reckless tackle on Nick Blackman.

Sannino felt Merkel’s challenge was born out of frustration and a desire to win the ball back quickly for his team.

“It is a shame,” Sannino said.

“It was a foul from frustration I think where everyone would like to recover the ball to start an attack because time was going very quickly at the end.

“If the referee has shown him a red card we have to respect the decision.”