Watford had to settle for a goalless draw in their penultimate pre-season friendly as the Hornets and Aston Villa paid tribute to former manager Graham Taylor at Villa Park.

On the balance of clear chances created, Steve Bruce’s side may feel the more disappointed at not taking a confidence-boosting win into the start of their Championship campaign next week.

Gabriel Agbonlahor spurned a great chance to give Villa the lead inside two minutes and Heurelho Gomes was to come to his side’s rescue again early in the second half when he saved a penalty from former Watford loanee Henri Lansbury.

Prior to that incident though, the Hornets had also failed to make the most of a clear first-half opening when Jerome Sinclair fired wide with the goal at his mercy after a lovely Roberto Pereyra flick had left him one-on-one with keeper Jed Steer.

In what was another productive afternoon in terms of fitness and another opportunity for Marco Silva to bed in his ideas and approach against a side expected to be challenging for promotion, Watford generally looked sound defensively – aside from some avoidable lapses – produced some good midfield play but were disappointing at times in the final third in terms of quality and chances created.

There is still time for that to be addressed but it is clear to see why Silva wants to add to his options out wide, although the quality of their attacking play improved for a spell following the introduction of Kiko Fermenia and Will Hughes in the second half.

The Hornets boss opted to rotate his personnel for the penultimate game of pre-season, with Sinclair leading the attacking line, flanked from wider positions by Nordin Amrabat and, making his first start of the summer build-up, Roberto Pereyra.

Tom Cleverley was another to make his first start of pre-season in front of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathaniel Chalobah, while Craig Cathcart and Brandon Mason were selected at full-back with Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas not involved at all.

Steven Berghuis was another not on duty ahead of his move to Feyenoord and, perhaps significantly in light of reports of a training ground row with his head coach, Etienne Capoue also missed out.

With just a week to go before starting their Championship campaign at home to Hull City, Bruce named a predictably strong side, led by their most high-profile of new arrivals, John Terry, who was making his home ‘debut’.

Chants of There’s Only One Graham Taylor rang out as both teams made their way onto the pitch and more followed as the late, great manager was remembered with a heartfelt round of applause from players and fans alike of both clubs.

The visitors started slowly though, and could easily have been behind inside 90 seconds when following a throw-in, Mason and Younes Kaboul were caught out by a straightforward through ball, leaving Agbonlahor with a clear run on goal. But fresh from signing his new two-year contract, Gomes read the striker’s intentions and made a good one-on-one save diving to his right.

Despite being ‘advertised’ as a 4-3-3 shape, the Hornets started with Silva’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, with Cleverley operating in behind Sinclair. Following the Hornets early escape though, Christian Kabasele looked to be feeling his right hamstring and his afternoon was to come to an end in the ninth minute when he was replaced by Sebastian Prodl.

Villa continued to look much the better side in the opening stages, as their opponents struggled to string together any meaningful periods of possession and spend much time in the Championship side’s half of the pitch.

However, they did threaten in the 15th minute when Cleverley fed Pereyra to his left and the former Juventus man initially looked like he might come inside to shoot, but slipped the ball to the overlapping Mason. His attempted cut-back was put out for a corner which came to nothing.

But any even better chance was to go begging two minutes later when Nathaniel Chalobah’s pass forward from halfway was touched on superbly by Pereyra to leave Sinclair one-on-one with Steer, but the former Liverpool youngster got his finish all wrong and missed the target by some distance.

The game was becoming increasingly entertaining though, with both sides looking to push om where possible, but Villa’s attacking prospects were to be hampered midway through the half when Jack Grealish was forced out of the game with what looked like an injury to his side. His place was taken by Leandro Bacuna.

Attention was then drawn to where the Watford fans were situated as Troy Deeney appeared and took his seat among them. But on the pitch it was the Hornets skipper’s teammates who were looking increasingly settled, without being able to turn some useful periods of possession into chances as the opening period ended goalless.

Silva made just the one change at the start of the second half with Isaac Success coming on for Pereyra, who continues to work his way back up to full speed following his long injury lay-off.

The visitors looked to make the running again after the restart, with Chalobah lashing an angle shot high and wide before Cleverley tried to catch Steer out with a free-kick from the left angle of the penalty area, but his effort lacked the pace and accuracy to trouble the keeper.

But like in the first half, Villa really should have had an early goal to their name when they were awarded a penalty after Kaboul clumsily tripped Alan Hutton in the area as he looked to run in behind. Yet again though, Gomes was to prove his prowess at keeping out spot-kicks, dropping to his left to block Lansbury’s effort from 12 yards which wasn’t particularly well struck in truth.

Silva made five changes just short of the hour and soon after two of the second-half arrivals were at the business end of a nice move which almost saw the Hornets take the lead.

Following a sustained spell of possession in and around the Villa box, Success played a good blind-side pass to put Femenia away on the right and his pull-back found the former Granada forward, whose first-time effort was juggled away by Steer but no Watford player was on hand to dispatch the rebound.

Sinclair then couldn’t get enough on a shot after Okaka had dummied a pass through to him, but Watford were enjoying a promising spell, with Femenia offering a good and productive outlet on the right flank.

But it was the home side who were to enjoy the next good opportunity when Ahmed Elmohamady ran Mason down the right before sending over a good cross, which substitute Birkir Bjarnason hit wide under pressure from Ferminia with another replacement, Scott Hogan, already poised to pounce at the back post.

It was then Bruce’s turn to make a number of changes and one of those, Jordan Amavi, was to have the next opportunity when he shot wide of the near post from the left side of the area.

The match was to increasingly fizzle towards its conclusion, although Watford’s replacement keeper Costel Pantilimon had to drop to his right to hold a long-range strike from Conor Hourihane with three minutes remaining.

Aston Villa: Steer; Hutton, Terry (Samba 73), Chester, Taylor; Lansbury (Amavi 73), Whelan (Hourihane 73); Green (Bjarnason), Elmohamady (Bree 73), Grealish (Bacuna 25); Agbonlahor (Hogan 54).

Watford: Gomes (Pantilimon 59); Cathcart, Kabasele (Prodl 9), Kaboul (Femenia 59) Mason; Doucoure (Watson 59), Chalobah; Amrabat (Okaka 59), Cleverley (Hughes 59), Pereyra (Success 46); Sinclair. Not used: Rowan.

Referee: Oliver Langford.