Watford and Derby County will head into half-time wondering how the game is level after a shambolic opening 45 minutes from the Hornets.

The Golden Boys took the lead five minutes into the contest when Cristian Battocchio was allowed too much room as he slipped in Troy Deeney and the striker’s first-time finish into the roof of the net was emphatic.

But it was a rare moment of quality from Watford during an otherwise terrible first-half display.

A combination of the visitors being defensively disorganised and unable to retain possession meant Derby created openings throughout the opening period.

The Hornets were very poor on the ball, particularly in their own half, and only Derby’s failure to be clinical with their final pass or shot meant Beppe Sannino’s men led for so long.

On one occasion Jamie Ward beat Joel Ekstrand on the wing but over-hit his cross to the unmarked Johnny Russell at the far post.

Chris Martin also should have scored when Marco Cassetti failed to deal with a cross and the striker was free six yards from goal, only to then drag his effort wide.

Shortly after Craig Bryson had a shot deflected wide, the Rams did finally equalise when the Golden Boys failed to clear another cross, this time from ex-Hornet Craig Forsyth, and Jeff Hendrick beat Jonathan Bond from ten yards out.

The home team should have taken the lead two minutes later when more horrific defending from Watford allowed Ward through one-on-one but this time Bond saved with his legs.

Daniel Pudil, who had been caught out of position during that attack, made two last-ditch interventions to deny a couple more clear-cut chances.

Derby were breaking with numbers as Watford’s midfield provided very little protection and Ward shot narrowly wide following another counter-attack.

The Golden Boys regained some stability just before half-time and an offside Pudil forced Lee Grant to save, but it didn’t mask what had been an awful Watford display in the first half.

Watford had been without three key players with Manuel Almunia (Achilles), Gabriele Angella (knee) and Almen Abdi (knee) all missing due to injury.

Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Thorne, Bryson, Hendrick; Russell, Ward, Martin.

Subs: Legzdins, Hughes, Naylor, Eustace, Whitbread, Bamford, Dawkins.

Watford: Bond; Doyley, Cassetti, Ekstrand; Riera, McGugan, Tozser, Battocchio, Pudil; Deeney, Ranegie.

Subs: Woods, Hoban, Faraoni, Merkel, Murray, Anya, Jakubiak.