Watford remain pointless after slumping to a third successive defeat at the start of the season after West Ham United exploited their hosts’ defensive shortcomings to run out 3-1 victors at Vicarage Road.

It may have been a hot and sunny day but the mood is anything but bright despite the performance being the brightest from a Hornets attacking perspective this season. They should have had more than Andre Gray’s first goal of the season to show for their efforts, but the mounting list of collective and individual errors at the back gives cause for growing concern.

The Hornets gave themselves an uphill battle from inside three minutes when Abdoulaye Doucoure clumsily conceded a penalty and Mark Noble gratefully accepted the invitation.

The Hornets responded positively to this setback though, and Gerard Deulofeu clipped the bar before he started the business end of the move that ended with Andre Gray scoring their first of the season.

The hosts continued to look bright going forward, but their defensive problems remained all too apparent and they were fortunate not to concede in the latter stages of the first half when an unmarked Felipe Anderson headed a corner against the post.

Javi Gracia’s men could have been behind the break but they really should have gone in front after when Gray laid a chance on a plate for Will Hughes, only for him to somehow miss from a yard. It was to prove a very costly miss.

Sebastien Haller converted from close range after more poor defending allowed Anderson to easily to get in down the left, and it didn’t take long for the Hornets to concede a third when the Hammers striker netted a second following more poor marking at a corner.

Javi Gracia made two injury-enforced changes to the side that produced a better performance in the 1-0 defeat at Everton and switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Gray and Tom Cleverley replaced Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra, with the former ruled out for several weeks following a knee operation while the Argentine has an ankle problem.

The Hornets boss had plenty of options on the bench including, for the first time, club record signing Ismaila Sarr.

West Ham picked up their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, but Manuel Pellegrini opted for four changes.

In came captain Noble on the 15th anniversary of his Hammers’ first-team debut together with Anderson and Haller, who also missed the Seagulls game through injury, while Andriy Yarmolenko was also included in the starting line-up.

Pablo Fornals dropped to the bench, but Robert Snodgrass, Jack Wilshere and Javier Hernandez were not involved in the match-day 18.

Watford had been forced to play catch-up in their first two games of the season and that trend was to be maintained, except it happened more quickly this time.

The Hornets were in trouble when West Ham countered and Manuel Lanzini was in plenty of space on the right side of the area when he was picked out. Ben Foster initially did well to shepherd him away from goal, only for Doucoure to needlessly dangle out a leg and the Argentine went down, giving Chris Kavanagh little option but to point to the spot.

After Lanzini had received treatment, Noble calmly converted from 12 yards to mark his anniversary with a goal and put the Hammers in front inside three minutes.

It was a dreadful start but within two minutes the Hornets were very nearly level when Gray’s smart pass put Deulofeu in the clear on the left side of the penalty area, but his rising drive clipped the bar as it went over.

The helter-skelter nature of the opening continued; Haller steering an effort from inside the six-yard box across goal and wide after more poor defending from the hosts, before Deulofeu was found in acres of space near the Hammers’ 18-yard box, only to dwell in possession and allow Issa Diop to pick his pocket.

It was an almost ridiculously open contest at times but in the 17th minute that worked to Watford’s favour.

The Hammers left a gaping chasm between their offensive and defensive units which the Hornets exploited as Deulofeu found Hughes in space to his right and the midfielder slipped the ball down the side of the defence where Gray had run in behind and he finished impressively, firing a low shot across Lukasz Fabianski inside the far post to equalise and net Watford’s first of the season.

The striker had another effort soon after, firing a first-time shot on the turn over after being picked out by a driven Deulofeu delivery from the right. But alarm bells were again ringing at the other end when Yarmolenko headed a cross from the right back into the danger zone and Haller improvised with his back to goal, but Foster moved smartly to deal with the bouncing effort.

After play had been stopped for drinks midway through the opening period given the hot conditions, the Hornets were in again when Jose Holebas got away down the left and his cross picked out Gray, but the striker couldn’t get a clean contact on the finish and scuffed an effort wide.

Watford continued to ask most of the attacking questions and eight minutes before the break had a VAR check when Gray went down in the area as he challenged for the ball with Diop, but no penalty was awarded.

Doucoure went close to connecting with as cross from the right and from Holebas’ resultant corner, the ball fell invitingly for Cleverley, but he got right under it and hit the big screen at the Vicarage Road end. In fairness though, the midfielder did appear to be unsighted.

The Hornets remained far from convincing defensively and three minutes before the break a corner from the right picked was met by an unmarked Anderson at the near post, after he had pulled away from Gray, and the Brazilian glanced a header across goal and off the far post which the home side managed to scramble clear before Yarmolenko could pounce.

Four minutes of added time afforded both sides hope they could take a lead into the break and in the first of those minutes Doucoure strode forward before finding Femenia, who swung over and inviting cross which again fell invitingly for Cleverley. This time his contact was to send the ball spinning sideways and out to the left as the opening period ended all-square.

Watford looked to take the positive aspects of their play into the second period, but it was the Hammers who had the first effort when Yarmolenko struck a left-footed curler from outside the area which Foster dived high to his right to pluck out of the air and hold onto at the second attempt.

The Hornets were continuing to knock at the door though, but in the 55th minute came one of those moments when you were left wandering quite how they didn’t score.

Deulofeu was again the creator with a ball in behind which Gray darted onto, rounded Fabianski on the left side of the area and squared across the six-yard box to lay it on a plate for Hughes at the back post, only for him to somehow contrive to miss the target from barely a yard.

While most inside Vicarage Road were left to contemplate quite how the hosts were not in front, Pellegrini introduced Michail Antonio for Yarmolenko. And it was the Hammers substitute who was almost in immediately, but he was out-witted by Foster as he attempted to round him and the Hornets keeper then did well to prevent Anderson from getting to the rebound.

A second drinks break took place on the hour but as Gracia was readying Darryl Janmaat to come on, the Hornets were horribly opened up in the right-back position and fell behind for a second time.

This time Anderson waltzed past Femenia and Craig Dawson on the left and got to the byline before presenting Haller with the simplest of chances to make it 2-1.

Janmaat didn’t come on the event, but in the 72nd minute it should have got even worse for the hosts when an unmarked Antonio connected with a Ryan Fredericks cross was superbly kept out by the legs of Foster.

The reprieve was to be short-lived though, as from the resultant corner Femenia was beaten at the near post by a header which Foster tipped onto the bar but the ball rebounded into the heart of the area where Haller hooked in his second.

Danny Welbeck and Sarr were immediately introduced for Hughes and Deulofeu respectively before Fornals replaced Anderson.

Sarr’s first chance to be involved at the sharp end was promising, laying a pass into Doucoure who in turn slipped in Cleverley for the midfielder to turn back on his left foot, only to shoot over.

Gray did the same following a corner before Domingos Quina replaced Cleverley for the closing stages. But any impetus had gone out of the Hornets by this stage and their opponents saw out the final minutes in relative comfort.

Watford: Foster; Femenia; Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes (Sarr 74), Cleverley (Quina 86), Deulofeu (Welbeck 74); Gray. Subs not used: Gomes, Janmaat, Chalobah, Kabasele.

West Ham United: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Rice, Noble; Yarmolenko (Antonio 55), Lanzini (Sanchez 87), Anderson (Fornals 78); Haller. Subs not used: Roberto, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Ajeti.

Bookings: Holebas for a foul on Antonio (63); Ogbonna for a foul on Welbeck (76).

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.