Watford added a third game to their current winless streak with an insipid 1-0 defeat away at Barnsley. 

Alex Mowatt’s screamer divided the sides from the seventh minute following some sloppy play at the back from the Hornets and it was a lead the hosts never looked in too much danger of relinquishing as Watford struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. 

Christian Kabasele and Domingos Quina were rested after Tuesday evening’s draw away at Wycombe, with Nathaniel Chalobah and Ben Wilmot returning to the starting XI. Will Hughes and Andre Gray featured in the matchday squad for the first time this season, with both appearing on the bench.

Watford Observer:

The visitors' intentions to build from the back were made clear from the early stages of the game, but it would prove to be a detrimental tactic with just six minutes on the clock. After the ball had been worked out to Wilmot on the left, his slack pass infield missed its intended target of Etienne Capoue and instead found the feet of Mowatt, who drove forward and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 25 yards.

Joao Pedro had the chance to equalise ten minutes later when Kiko Femenia slipped Ismaila Sarr in down the right-hand channel, but the cross into the box was just cut out in front of the Brazilian. Femenia put a cross into the area himself shortly after, but this time Barnsley goalkeeper Jack Walton caught the ball under little pressure.

The Tykes could have doubled their advantage as the Hornets fruitlessly continued to play the ball out from the back. Yet more aimless passing ended up with them conceding possession cheaply on half-way and Valerian Ismael’s side were allowed to build an attack with Patrick Shmidt eventually knocking the ball back to the unmarked Dominik Frieser on the edge of the area, only for him to fire high over the bar. 

Conor Chaplin had a similar opportunity midway through the half with Callum Brittain picking him out from the right, but his effort was fired straight at Ben Foster.

Watford’s best outlet in the first 45 was Femenia, but his deliveries from the flank weren’t threatening enough to cause the home side any real concern and the half-time whistle was blown without Vladimir Ivic’s men mustering so much as a shot on target.

Watford Observer:

It would take them until the hour mark to create their first real goalscoring opportunity and it was one they really should have taken. Again, the right-hand-side offered their clearest route to goal and when Sarr lost his marker and jinked into the area, it seemed as if he just needed to find the right pass. However Tom Cleverley somehow managed to fire high and wide from just six yards out with the goal gaping in front of him.

The openings started to come with greater regularity for Watford, but they were still unable to cause Walton any significant problems in the Tykes’ net.

A quick Nathaniel Chalobah free-kick almost played Pedro in behind, but some sharp thinking from a Barnsley defender forced him out wide and the Brazilian had to settle for a corner. The resulting delivery found Wilmot’s head, but the shot looped over the bar.

Although Watford were controlling the possession at this point, Barnsley almost doubled their advantage against the run of play. Chalobah’s ungainly pass fell to feet of substitute George Miller, but he spooned his effort wide of the far post with only Foster to beat.

Despite that chance, it was the Hornets who still looked the most likely to score and they almost did from a corner with just over 20 minutes remaining. Ken Sema’s delivery found Wilmot unmarked in the six-yard-box, but his glancing header bounced off the turf and looped over the bar. 

Wilmot then nearly turned the ball into his own net as Mowatt’s searching cross from the left looked to pick out Miller in the centre, only for the defender to poke the ball just wide of Foster’s far post with an outstretched toe.

From the resulting corner, a tepid delivery saw the Hornets break away and ended with Sarr looking for Pedro, who was unmarked in the penalty area, only for Clarke Odour to make a decisive intervention and cut out the danger.

For all Watford's industry in the final stages of the game, there was still little in the way of cohesion or creativity on display and Barnsley saw the win out fairly comfortably.

Ivic will have been buoyed by Gray and Hughes playing their first minutes for him this season after they both came off the bench, but that’s about as much of a positive he can hope to gain from this performance.