Watford’s search for a first Premier League win goes on, although their 20-match search for a first top-flight clean sheet is over after a dismal goalless draw against Sheffield United at Vicarage Road.

A game very low on chances saw Watford have the best of the few that were created. Andre Gray missed an easy opportunity in the first 10 minutes after being set up by Roberto Pereyra, although it would probably have been ruled out for offside, while Danny Welbeck was unable to capitalise on a one-on-one minutes after the restart.

The game looked increasingly certain to finish goalless until injury-time when a Gerard Deulofeu free-kick picked out an unmarked Craig Dawson, but he was unable to beat Dean Henderson.

The Hornets were more organised and resolute than for much of this season, but going forward they largely lacked quality and belief to go and win a game that has to go down as an opportunity lost going into the next international break.

Quique Sanchez Flores rolled the dice following the defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers, making four changes and switching formation to three at the back.

The biggest headline inclusion was Sebastian Prodl for his first league start since April 2018 in a back-three that also included Christian Kabasele, while Pereyra and Gray also returned.

Dawson, Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr dropped to the bench, but Etienne Capoue was not included in the 18.

The Blades’ team news was much more straightforward as Chris Wilder kept faith with the same XI that was unfortunate to lose to Liverpool last weekend.

The visitors started as the more assured of the two sides and had most of the early possession, but chances were thin on the ground until the 9th minute when Gray’s blushes would probably have been spared by an offside decision.

There initially didn’t look to be much on when the hosts played the ball out of defence but Pereyra chased it down on the right and in no time at all the Hornets almost had a three-on-one. The Argentinian advanced before squaring the ball across the six-yard-box for what looked to be a formality finish, only for the striker to put it over from a few yards out. However, replays showed VAR would probably have ruled it out, which in itself was poor on Gray’s part for allowing that to even come into the equation.

This game the Hornets some belief though, with Pereyra and Gray both having some threatening runs, while Sanchez Flores’ side also won a couple of corners.

The visitors had the next sight of an opportunity when George Baldock played in a deep cross from the right and Daryl Janmaat had to be attentive at the back post to prevent Callum Robinson cross.

Then disaster almost struck when Baldock played in another cross from the right which ran all the way through the Hornets’ 18-yard box until the outstretched leg of Craig Cathcart sent it spinning up towards his own goal, forcing Ben Foster to frantically get across to make sure it went behind.

Foster had to go to ground to hold a John Fleck shot, but the Blades were almost caught on the counter again when Gray had both Welbeck and Abdoulaye Doucoure bursting into space, but he was unable to find the right pass.

The opportunities to attack were becoming increasingly few and far between though, with the hosts withdrawn into a 5-3-2 shape against United’s 3-5-2 and surrendering so much possession as an inevitable consequence.

The Hornets did start to try and be more progressive again as the half drew to a close, having the sight of a chance when Christian Kabasele tried to hook a Prodl header on back into the middle after the pressure had been kept back on from a corner.

Having got through to the break without conceding a goal in a league game this season, Watford missed another great chance to take the lead within four minutes of the restart.

A lovely touch from Welbeck saw him leave Enda Stevens in his wake and with a clear path on goal. The former Arsenal man had plenty of time to think about what he was going to do as he broke clear, but with Gray up in support he chose to go it alone, only to be thwarted by Henderson.

United had their first opportunity after the restart when the ball was headed down by Oli McBurnie and sat up invitingly for Robinson, but he struck a half-volley straight at Foster.

A solid return to first-team action for Prodl was cut short by what looked to be a hamstring injury 10 minutes after the restart. Before Dawson could take his place though, McBurnie picked up the first booking of the afternoon for a late challenge on Kabasele.

The changes continued with Deulofeu entering the fray for Gray before Lys Mousset replaced McBurnie, but the game remaining a largely dismal watch with much of Watford’s play lacking tempo and belief.

Billy Sharp replaced Robinson in the 71st minute as the visitors looked for way to try and break the stalemate, before Sanchez Flores turned to Sarr with 15 minutes remaining as Welbeck was taken off.

The Hornets had an opportunity soon after when Doucoure charged down a shot and the ball rebounded away for Deulofeu to latch onto it and take on the Blades defence, but he was unable to get his cross beyond Henderson.

It was United though, who were asking most of the attacking questions as the game entered its closing stages, but still without finding the quality to seriously extend Foster or those in front of him.

John Lundstram was booked as the game entered the first of a five minutes of stoppage time for a foul on Deulofeu as the home side tried to lift themselves for one last push.

And the deadlock was so nearly broken when Deulofeu swung in a deep free-kick and Dawson got clear to send in an unmarked downward header, only to be thwarted by Henderson.

Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Kabasele, Prodl (Dawson 56), Cathcart, Holebas;, Doucoure, Cleverley; Pereyra; Gray (Deulofeu 59), Welbeck. Subs not used: Gomes, Chalobah, Hughes, Femenia.

Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; Robinson (Sharp 71); McBurnie (Mousset 62). Subs not used: Moore, Freeman, Jagielka, Osborn, Besis.

Bookings: McBurnie for a foul on Kabasele (56); Lundstram for a foul on Deulofeu (90).

Referee: Andre Marriner.