Watford were unable to make the most of a dominant first half display against Bristol City and ended up creating just one shot on target as they drew 0-0 at Ashton Gate.

The Hornets trialled a new-look 4-3-3 system after head coach Vladimir Ivic admitted he had made some mistakes in recent weeks and wanted to see his players control and dominate games.

However, his four personnel changes may have been a result of positive Covid-19 tests which mean three players are now self-isolating for ten days.

Christian Kabasele returned to the starting line-up along with Jeremy Ngakia, James Garner and Domingos Quina with Ken Sema and Etienne Capoue absent from the squad and William Troost-Ekong and Ben Wilmot dropping to the bench.

The opening seven minutes of the game saw Watford on the front foot and trying to build. A couple of stray passes let them down at inopportune moments, with Dan Bentley’s goal untroubled. His opposite number Ben Foster had some cause for concern when a slick passing move on the left involving Jay Dasilva and Jamie Paterson resulted in an Antoine Semenyo shot from inside the box, that soared over the bar with the attacker leaning back as he made contact.

As the game rolled on, Watford started to establish some of the control that Ivic had hoped to find with his new formation, with the visitors threatening to turn possession into chances.

First, Quina was gifted an opening from a loose ball across the Bristol defence, only for Zak Vyner to make a vital intervention with the midfielder just about to burst into the box unopposed.

Vyner then made another crucial challenge moments later when Garner’s threaded pass into the box was neatly laid into the path of Ismaila Sarr by Andre Gray, only for the defender to divert the shot away from goal for a second time in quick succession.

While no defenders were on hand to throw themselves in the way of Quina’s dipping effort just after the 20th minute, the ball whistled just wide of Bentley’s upright, keeping the deadlock just about intact.

It stayed that way until half-time with Watford obviously benefitting from the change in shape, but still missing something in their attack.

In fact, the Hornets had 66% of the first half possession, but created no shots on target. Craig Cathcart came closest with the last effort of the half after Dasilva clattered Sarr on the corner of the 18-yard-box, but he could only nod Garner’s deflected free-kick into the side netting from inside the six-yard-box.

Sarr nearly started the second half with a shot from a similar position after Ngakia’s searching delivery from deep released the Senegal international, but Tommy Rowe kept up with the pacey winger and put in another vital last gasp challenge.

While Watford were struggling to create clear-cut chances from their vastly superior possession, Bristol almost took the lead with their first sight of goal since the opening stages of the first half.

Semenyo dragged Kabasele out wide and drove past him with ease before pulling the ball back into the path of Famara Diedhiou, who just needed to prod home from all of three yards out, but was unable to sort his feet on and could only watch on as the ball and the chance squirmed away from him.

The Robins crafted another dangerous opening on the hour mark as the game began to open up. Semenyo was involved again, this time twisting away from Ngakia, before shooting from the corner of the six-yard-box only to put his effort wide of Foster’s far post.

Things were looking slightly ominous for the Hornets at this stage, as their first half dominance had all but ebbed away, and when Semenyo guided Jack Hunt’s cross from the right just over Foster’s crossbar, Ivic’s men could have been forgiven for bracing themselves for further danger.

However, instead the head coach brought on Troy Deeney and the visitors started to re-establish the hold they had on the game in the first half. They should have taken the lead with 15 minutes to go when Quina collected a loose ball in the 18-yard-box after Sarr’s cross from the right had been cut out, but somehow Bentley pulled off a magnificent reaction save from the Portuguese midfielder’s stinging effort and pushed the ball over the bar.

At the other Foster was called into action five minutes after with Paterson trying his luck from the edge of the area after a short corner routine, but the veteran shot-stopper was quick to get down to his right and kept the effort out.

A late cry for a Watford penalty fell on deaf ears after Deeney was seemingly tripped in the box by Bentley, but no further chances were created by either side and the Hornets’ dominant display was only good enough to earn a point, keeping them fifth in the Championship.