On the evidence of his first roll of the dice in the Premier League, pragmatism could well be the order of the day for Javi Gracia’s Watford.

The Hornets scrapped their way to a 0-0 draw at Stoke – never an easy place to go – on an evening where both side’s abandoned free-flowing football in favour of a direct approach.

Still, a first clean sheet since November and important point against a relegation rival is not to ne sniffed at and the new head coach will have been pleased with his side’s fight.

It is the sort of character Watford will need to rely on in the months ahead, and one win in 12 league outings means this must now form the foundation for an upturn in form.

Gracia opted to make four changes from the side which limply fell to a 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

The most notable inclusion came in the form of Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu making his debut after agreeing a switch to Vicarage Road on Monday.

Troy Deeney, Tom Cleverley and Sebastian Prodl were also recalled as Andre Gray, Ben Watson, who was released from the squad in an attempt to complete a loan move, and Daryl Janmaat made way.

Prodl was involved at both ends in the early stages, firing a tame shot at Jack Butland from Jose Holebas’ free-kick before losing track of Mama Birman Diouf, who almost got on the end of Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross.

Watford would have the better of the opening throws of a game grounded in physicality rather than flair as chances remained at a premium.

Such was the paucity of quality on show, Jon Moss became the centre of attention in the first 20 minutes as the niggling fouls added up and his whistle sounded repeatedly.

It took an overcommitted Christian Kabasele to create the first genuine chance of the day as he allowed Diouf to slip a pass inside him to Shaqiri.

The former Bayern Munich man shifted possession to Charlie Adam who saw his shot well blocked and break to Maxim Choupo-Moting.

He set his sights and set a curling shot inches outside the post as Watford survived their first scare of the night.

Holebas was a man with a point to prove after his war of words with Watford fans after Saturday’s loss and he provided much of Watford’s better moments.

Having already sent in two dangerous crosses the left back delivered a pinpoint free-kick from the left to find the head of Abdoulaye Doucoure.

The Frenchman’s glancing header looped towards the back stick and required a defensive intervention to prevent a host of Watford players turning in at the back post.

Deulofeu’s first half offering left plenty to be desired with a number of loose touches punctuating his display, but he did produce one moment of quality just before the interval.

He drove in from the right and fired a low cross into the path of Richarlison who could only stab over a half-volley on the slide.

The second half picked up where the first left off and fouls continued to mount and both the hosts and Watford scrambled for some semblance of creativity.

Deulofeu showcased a glimpse of the talent which leads to making an impression at Barcelona and flicked a delightful pass around the corner to send Doucoure on his way.

He returned the ball to the Spaniard who played in Richarlison and he saw a shot deflect well wide from the edge of the box.

A finely balanced game looked as though it could be settled by a mistake and Prodl, who had struggled throughout, was almost culpable for a fatal one.

The Austrian sent a blind header back towards his goal which had nowhere near enough power to reach Orestis Karnezis.

Fortunately for Prodl, the Greek stopper stood firm as Shaqiri struck a fierce volley straight at him and parried strongly.

The chance marked the start of a prolonged period of Stoke pressure which saw Peter Crouch, on from the bench, go close from six yards.

Gracia reacted positively to the home side’s growing influence and brought Andre Gray on for the largely ineffectual Richarlison.

The change nearly yielded instant reward but Doucoure saw his shot bravely blocked by Ryan Shawcross after getting on the end of Gray’s cross.

Watford would again go close with seven minutes to play as the ball bounced around the area and fell to Roberto Pereyra.

The Argentine struggled to sort his feet out and shinned a tamely at goal for Butland to make an easy save.

It would be the clearest opening Watford would create in the second half and the remainder of the match past with little incident.

Regardless they took what could prove to be a valuable point which they will hope to build on against Chelsea next Monday night.

Stoke City: Butland; Bauer, Shawcross (C), Zouma, Pieters, Fletcher, Adam (Crouch 61), Shaqiri, Allen, Choupo-Moting, Diouf (Berahino 85)

Subs not used: Grant; Johnson, Cameron, Stafylidis, Ramadan

Watford: Karnezis; Mariappa, Kabasele, Prödl, Holebas; Doucouré, Cleverley (Pereyra 72), Deulofeu (Carrillo 88), Capoue, Richarlison (Gray 68), Deeney (C)

Subs not used: Bachmann, Zeegelaar, Janmaat, Stewart