Watford were made to settle for a goalless draw at Brighton & Hove Albion after a disappointing attacking display on the south coast.

The Hornets struggled offensively from the outset, lacking a creative edge and spark for much of the game as Seagulls goalkeeper Mat Ryan had a largely untroubled afternoon between the uprights.

Indeed, it was opposite number Ben Foster who the Hornets ultimately had to thank for securing a point, making a fine save in each half to keep out a Jurgen Locadia header on each occasion.

Javi Gracia’s side will probably be the happier with the outcome after a disappointing display aside from strong defending as they moved back up to eighth, four points behind Wolves.

The Hornets head coach was forced into one change from the side that suffered a late 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

A calf injury meant Roberto Pereyra missed a Premier League game for the first time this season, with Ken Sema taking his place. Issac Success was also ruled out of the match-day 18 through injury, but the bench included Nathaniel Chalobah, Andre Gray and – for the first time in a league fixture – Adalberto Penaranda.

Brighton boss Chris Hughton opted to name an unchanged starting XI, despite seeing his side let a two-goal lead slip and lose 4-2 at Fulham last time out.

However, that intention had to change just before kick-off as Dale Stephens was injured in the warm-up, his place was taken by Yves Bissouma, with Dan Burn a late inclusion on the bench.

Both sides were able to get the ball down and knock it around in the early stages, but it was the Seagulls who had the first chance in the sixth minute when Bissouma got away down the left and pulled the ball back to Solly March, who struck a half-volley into the ground and over the top, although the flag was already up.

The Hornets had a promising opportunity soon after when Will Hughes fed Daryl Janmaat in space on the right side of the 18-yard box, but his cross was too deep and Sema was unable to retrieve the ball on the opposite side of the area.

Troy Deeney had not had a great deal to work with in the opening stages but he was given a first sight of goal in the 17th minute when Janmaat stood up a cross from the right and the Hornets skipper rose well around 15 yards out, but he was unable to direct his effort on target.

There were signs the Hornets were looking to up the ante as the 20-minute mark passed, but the next chance was to go Brighton’s way as Craig Cathcart did well to head clear under pressure from Glenn Murray after a deep ball into the area from the right had been nodded into the danger zone. The ball then broke for March outside the area, but he dragged a left-footed shot wide of Foster’s near post.

The Hornets keeper watched attentively as Lewis Dunk rose to head a deep free-kick from the right wide of his right-hand post after Jose Holebas had been penalised for a foul, but goalmouth action remained in relatively short supply as the game passed the 30-minute mark.

Davy Propper received the game’s first yellow card in the 33rd minute for bringing down Sema in the centre circle as the Hornets looked to counter after successfully repelling a Seagulls corner.

It was the Brighton midfielder who had the next opportunity though, when Pascal Gross clipped free-kick into the area and Propper was free at the back post, but he volleyed over.

Foster had enjoyed a relatively quiet first half, but that all changed in the 41st minute when Gross crossed from the right and Locadia got up well in the area, only to see his effort impressively clawed away from inside the near post.

That was largely it for a goalless first-half that saw Watford do well in some respects, but lack any real spark or creativity in attack.

The Seagulls were quickly out of the blocks after the restart, but the Hornets withstood some early pressure, only to be almost undone in the 53rd minute when March drove in a low cross from the right, but Janmaat read the danger and got across the front of Murray to clear.

The visitors were in more trouble again soon after when Gross was found in space on the right side of the area, but he chose to lay the ball back to Gatean Bong and Hughes flung himself off the right-back, forcing him to shoot over.

Hughes at least forced Ryan into a save in the 57th minute with a first-time left-footed shot after Deeney had flicked on, and a couple of minutes left Sema headed over at the far post from a Janmaat cross from close to the by-line.

Watford were at last starting to ask some attacking questions though, and were looking a greater threat having switched to more of a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Gracia made his first change in the 70th minute as Andre Gray replaced the largely ineffective Deulofeu, but that came after Brighton had a chance when Murray flashed a header wide from a Gross free-kick on the right.

Hughton followed suit with a substitution soon after as Florin Andone replaced Murray and it was then the Seagulls turn to exert some pressure, without creating anything of note.

The afternoon was rather summed up in the 79th minute when Locadia superbly controlled a cross-field ball on his chest, only to slice his shot so badly it went out for a throw-in.

Locadia was to go much closer with his next effort though, forcing Foster to superbly tip-over his header after he had been picked out by a March cross from the left.

The keeper was to come to his side’s rescue again moments later, stretching out a leg to divert Shae Duffy’s acrobatic effort wide after the Seagulls had kept play alive from the corner.

Domingos Quina replaced Sema with nine minutes of normal time remaining, but it was then Dunk’s turn to save Brighton with an astonishing piece of defending, preventing Hughes and then Gray from getting a shot away from eight yards out when the Brighton centre-half was lying on the ground.

Hughes sent an angled effort wide of the near post before Andone went closer at the other end, fizzing a shot on the turn not too high over at the other end.

Just two minutes of stoppage time afforded both sides limited opportunity to find a late winner, although Bissouma did hit a well-struck drive wide with the last kick of the game.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan; Montonya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Gross, Propper, Bissouma; March, Murray (Andone 72), Locadia. Subs not used: Button, Kayal, Knockaert, Balogun, Jahanbakhsh, Burn.

Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Cleverley, Capoue, Sema (Quina 81); Deeney, Deulofeu (Gray 70). Subs not used: Gomes, Britos, Masina, Chalobah, Penaranda.

Bookings: Propper for a foul on Sema (33).

Attendance: 30,414.

Referee: Simon Hooper.