Familiar failings once again reared their head as Watford’s dismal away run stretched to an 11th Premier League game without victory and their travel troubles in front of goal extended to 728 minutes without finding the opposition net in all competitions following a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

The first half was essentially the story of Spurs being gifted the lead by the latest individual mistake and Watford not taking a couple of good chances because otherwise the Hornets were more than a match for their top-four opponents.

Spurs were handed the advantage when Orestis Karnezis dropped a Kieran Trippier cross and Christian Eriksen set up Dele Alli for a straightforward finish. But rather than go and drive home their advantage, it was the Hornets who were to have the better of the first-half chances thereafter as Hugo Lloris was twice forced into stops to deny Andre Gray and Richarlison.

Crucially though, the visitors were unable to take one of those opportunities and they were made to pay within three minutes of the restart when Harry Kane netted his 27th Premier League goal of the season.

The Hornets continued to plug away though, but again their finishing was found wanting with Richarlison missing a great chance to halve the deficit when he fired badly over from six yards.

And when the visitors did get the ball in the back of the net, substitute Gerard Delofeu saw the goal ruled out by a tight offside goal, although Kane also saw another effort suffer the same fate.

There was no surprise Javi Gracia reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 formation to match Spurs as he made three changes from the side which drew 0-0 against Crystal Palace last time out, two of which were enforced.

Stefano Okaka and Roberto Pereyra were ruled out through injury, while Troy Deeney had to be content with a place on the bench, and in came Kiko Femenia, Richarlison and – for his first start since the FA Cup exit at Southampton – Gray.

Adrian Mariappa was given the honour of being made captain for his boyhood club at Wembley and Etienne Capoue made his 100th Hornets appearance in all competitions against his former club.

Despite the disappointment of the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United, Mauricio Pochettino chose to leave well alone apart from bringing Hugo Lloris back in place of Michel Vorm in goal.

Having taken the kick off, the Hornets sought to be positive from the outset with Will Hughes having the first attempt on goal after just 10 seconds when he shot wide of the near post from outside the penalty area.

Kane was to have his first effort of the evening three minutes later, not unduly troubling Karnezis with a weak left-footed effort from 18 yards after Heung-min Son had wriggled away from Craig Cathcart on the left.

Spurs sought to build on that, winning two corners in quick succession and from the second which was taken short to Mousa Dembele on the left, Eric Dier flashed an angled header across goal and wide from his midfield colleague’s cross.

The Hornets suffered a scare in the 12th minute when Capoue carelessly gave the ball away to Alli, he broke into the area and tried to square for Kane but Christian Kabasele managed to make a partial interception before the ball was cleared.

Watford were looking lively on the counter though, and soon after Hughes found Richarlison on the left side of the six-yard box, but instead of pulling the trigger he tried to square for Gray and the opportunity went begging.

This was always going to be a difficult task for the Hornets without gifting chances to the hosts – but that was exactly what happened in the 16th minute.

Kieran Trippier whipped in a cross from the right and Kabasele, presumably because he got a shout, ducked under the cross which Karnezis gathered in his midriff, only to let the ball squirm from his grasp, Eriksen knocked it sideways to Alli, who gratefully converted the chance to put Spurs 1-0 up.

The goal unsurprisingly gave Tottenham a lift but their opponents shook off the setback relatively quickly and spurned a good chance to equalise in the 26th minute when a pass from Dier was intercepted by Abdoulaye Doucoure, he quickly set Gray away goal-side of his man but the former Burnley striker was unable to get the better of Lloris with his first-time low strike.

Spurs had a half-hearted penalty appeal when Son went down tamely after barely being touched by Doucoure, before Eriksen hit a swerving shot wide from 25 yards after latching on to a throw and accelerating inside.

Another chance arrived in the 36th minute when a delightful flick found Doucuoure in space in the area, but instead of shooting first time he chose to come back inside on his right foot before he did get a strike away which Lloris was always behind.

The Hornets maintained their positive approach as the first half drew to a close and had another good opportunity when Doucoure passed to Gray, who spotted Richarlison’s run to his left and played him into space, but the angle was increasingly against the Brazilian, although he did force Lloris into another good stop, with the rebound not falling kindly for Gray.

Still Tottenham failed to clear the danger though, as the impressive Hughes won the ball back in midfield and set Doucuoure away but Lloris anticipated the danger and raced from his area to win a challenge and clear the ball into touch as Spurs ended the opening half a goal to the good but by no means comfortably on top.

But Watford’s inability to take their chances was to bite them within three minutes of the restart.

Alli was found in space in midfield and he passed the ball to the left side of the penalty area where Son pulled it across the box looking for Kane, who slipped as the ball went behind him. However, it ran to the unmarked Trippier, who had plenty of time to put the ball back into the danger zone and the England striker wasn’t going to miss a second time as Spurs doubled their lead.

That goal did lift Spurs after what had been a poor first-half display by their standards, but their opponents had enjoyed a spell of possession in the opposition half before both sides made changes in the 63rd minute.

Victor Wanyama replaced the injured Dembele while Gracia made a double substitution, with Deeney coming on for Gray and Deulofeu making his return from injury in place of Femenia.

Wanyama’s first involvement was to get booked for dissent after not getting the benefit of a decision following a challenge from Richarlison, but the Hornets were then to survive another big let off.

Trippier went close to adding to his ever-lengthening list of assists against Watford when he swung over a free-kick from the right, Jan Vertonghen got up highest at the back stick to head back across goal, the ball rebounded off the far post with the rebound somehow managing to elude Kane in the six-yard box.

The Hornets’ problems in front of goal were underlined soon after when Jose Holebas got round the back of Trippier and stood up a cross to the back post where Deeney’s nod down broke for Richarlison, who couldn’t keep his composure and blasted over from six yards.

That was bad finishing but moments later the Hornets didn’t get the benefit of a decision when a Doucoure pass split the Spurs defensive line and Deulofeu confidently rounded Lloris to score, only for his celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.

It was Kane’s turn to be ruing an offside decision in the 73rd minute when Vertonghen brought the ball down with a superb touch on the edge of the area before playing in his teammate to his left, with the forward firing confidently across Karnezis and into the far corner, but again the goal was ruled out.

After Moussa Sissoko had replaced Son, there followed a lengthy stoppage following a nasty clash of heads between Trippier and Richarlison, with the Brazilian coming off much the worse but he was able to continue after being given the all clear.

Erik Lamela and Andre Carrillo replaced Alli and Hughes respectively for the final eight minutes, but it was another substitute, Sissoko, who missed a fine opportunity to add a third in the last minute of normal time when he was played into space by Kane, but fired badly over with an angled drive.

Deeney sent a dipping half-volley over at the other end from the edge of the area before Carrillo wriggled his way past Ben Davies and fired in an angled shot, but again Lloris was equal to it as the hosts strengthened their grip on a top-four finish.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 63); Eriksen, Alli (Lamela 82), Son (Sissoko 74); Kane. Subs not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Aurier, Moura.

Watford: Karnezis; Mariappa, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Femenia (Deulofeu 63), Hughes (Carillo 82), Richarlison; Gray (Deeney 63). Subs not used: Gomes, Janmaat, Britos, Sinclair.

Bookings: Wanyama for dissent (64).

Referee: Michael Oliver.