Watford’s alarming slump in form continued after their injury-hit side suffered a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City this evening.

Walter Mazzarri’s side held out until injury time in the first half with Ryan Shawcross firing the Potters into the lead.

Stoke made it 2-0 shortly after the break when Peter Crouch scored from close range to seal the visitors’ fate.

Even accounting for their significant list of absentees, Watford’s run of six Premier League defeats in eight matches only intensifies the pressure on head coach Mazzarri and leaves the side looking over their shoulders with the threat of getting sucked into a relegation battle.

The Hornets made three changes from the team hammered by Tottenham on Sunday. Defender Miguel Britos returned from suspension in place of Craig Cathcart.

Christian Kabasele also earned a rare start with Nordin Amrabat ruled out due to injury and Valon Behrami made his comeback in midfield from a hamstring strain with Odion Ighalo dropping down to the bench.

Stoke made two changes to the side beaten at Chelsea with Jon Walters and Marko Arnautovic preferred to Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay.

Jose Holebas had the visitors’ first effort of the game but his speculative long-range strike flew harmlessly over Lee Grant’s bar.

The Potters spurned a great chance to take the lead when Arnautovic broke clear but his cut back evaded Walters and the clearance cannoned off a defender and out for a corner.

It was a quietly encouraging start from the Hornets with the visitors showing much greater application than in the previous game.

Stoke were struggling to find any fluency and their frustration was summed up by a hopeful strike from distance by Charlie Adam which flew over the crossbar.

The hosts almost opened the scoring on the half-hour mark through Crouch but the towering striker’s header, from Erik Pieters’ cross, was parried by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Watford threatened on the break and Abdoulaye Doucoure cut the ball back for Adlene Guedioura but a Stoke defender produced a vital interception before the midfielder could shoot.

The half was summed up by a woeful effort from Arnautovic with the Stoke forward blasting his shot hopelessly over the goal.

But Stoke snatched the lead before the break when Adam’s corner was met by Shawcross’ half-volley which bounced past Gomes for the opener.

Watford Observer:

The gamble to play Behrami failed to pay off with the midfielder struggling for fitness before the break and he was replaced by Ighalo.

Watford almost equalised at the start of the second period through Doucoure but the midfielder’s shot was parried by Grant.

But the Hornets conceded a second goal in the 49th minute when Adam’s cross was missed by Sebastian Prodl, struck Crouch and flew past Gomes from close range.

The visitors had a rare chance to get back in the match when Troy Deeney teed up Ighalo but his shot was blocked by a defender.

Mazzarri brought on Jerome Sinclair midway through the half sacrificing midfielder Guedioura in his final game before leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Substitute Afellay almost made an immediate impact for Stoke but his spectacular half-volley flashed just past Gomes' post.

It should have been 3-0 when Crouch flicked the ball on for Walters but Gomes bravely dived at his feet to make the save.

The Hornets rallied and went close through Sinclair's header which was cleared off the line.

Watford kept the ball in play and Prodl spurned an opportunity by heading wide of Grant's post.

The visitors made their final change with young striker Michael Folivi handed his debut in place of Prodl.

Walters was still looking a threat for Stoke and he raced clear of the defence before being denied by a decent Gomes save.

The Potters pressed for a third goal and Shawcross lashed a fierce strike narrowly wide in the last ten minutes.

But Mark Hughes' side comfortably saw out three minutes of injury time as Watford's winless run stretched to five games.

Stoke City: Grant; Martins Indi, Shawcross, Johnson; Diouf (Afellay, 67), Allen, Adam (Whelan, 83), Pieters; Arnautovic, Walters, Crouch

Subs not used: Given, Bardsley, Imbula, Shaqiri, Bojan

Watford: Gomes; Kabasele, Britos, Prodl (Folivi, 81), Kaboul, Holebas; Guedioura (Sinclair, 68), Doucoure, Behrami (Ighalo, HT), Capoue; Deeney

Subs not used: Pantilimon, Cathcart, Mason, Eleftheriou

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Attendance: 27,010 (961 away fans)