Watford showed that they are capable of “doing it on a cold night in Stoke” as they beat the Potters 2-1 away from home.

Second half strikes from Troy Deeney and Ismaila Sarr meant that Steven Fletcher’s late goal counted for little and made up for what was otherwise a fairly perfunctory showing from the Hornets, who now find themselves level on points with second place Swansea City in the Championship table.

Head coach Xisco Munoz made two changes to his starting XI with Joao Pedro replacing Andre Gray and Nathaniel Chalobah reclaiming his place in the team in place of Ken Sema, who was left out of the squad.

The alterations saw midfielder Tom Cleverley shifted out to the right of the midfield four, occasionally swapping places with Will Hughes, while Sarr filled in for Sema on the opposite flank.

In his pre-match press conference, Munoz had spoken of his desire for his team to play attacking football, but the opening 25 minutes of the match saw the Hornets firmly on the back foot, absorbing Stoke pressure.

Yet defensively they looked solid once again, with a John Obi Mikel effort, deflected wide for a corner the closest the hosts came to breaking the deadlock.

It took until the half-hour mark for Watford to gain any real forward momentum, but with it came the first shot on target. Deeney worked the ball infield to Hughes following a charge down the pitch from Kiko Femenia and the midfielder’s neat backheel found Chalobah unmarked in the area, only for Joe Bursik to turn the effort away at the near post.

From the resulting corner, the Hornets might have felt they should have had a penalty when former Luton Town man Rhys Norrington-Davies restricted Adam Masina’s movement with an over-zealous cuddle. Referee Oliver Langford was in a decent position to see the incident but saw nothing wrong with it.

Normal service then resumed as Stoke exerted yet more pressure on their guests and almost took the lead through Sam Clucas who diverted James McClean’s free kick just over Daniel Bachmann’s crossbar, resulting from a foul on Nick Powell for which Femenia picked up a yellow card.

The rest of the half passed without incident as the game became something of a difficult watch, with Watford in clear need of improvement.

However, the second half began with yet more passive play from the visitors and only a terrific Bachmann stop denied Joe Allen after Femenia had cheaply relinquished possession in front of his penalty area.

Powell was the beneficiary of that sloppy piece of defending – he squared for Allen, but the Welshman’s goalbound shot was punched clear by the goalkeeper’s sprawling dive to his left, keeping his clean sheet intact.

There was little Bursik could do to keep Deeney out at the other end just after the hour mark, as the deadlock was finally broken.

The skipper lifted a delicate ball over the Stoke defence to find Sarr in behind. His shot was smothered by the Stoke keeper, but Pedro picked up the loose ball and was tripped by the 20-year-old’s outstretched glove, leaving Langford with little doubt about the decision to award the spot kick this time around.

Deeney stepped up and dispatched it emphatically to Bursik’s right, giving Watford the lead against the run of play.

Watford Observer:

It took just five more minutes for the Hornets to double their advantage with what was undoubtedly the game’s greatest moment of quality.

Deeney was involved once again as he slipped a perfectly weighted pass behind the Potters defenders and Sarr used his pace to latch onto the ball before arcing a shot low and hard into the far corner of the net.

Bachmann did well to hold onto Clarke’s long range effort not long after, with Stoke players lurking in and around his area, but he was finally beaten for the first time in the Championship this season when Masina’s thoughtless backheel allowed the home side to forge an attack that ended with Allen clipping the ball into the path of Fletcher, who finished from inside the six yard box.

A frantic finale was set up, but despite several corners and a couple of close attempts from the home side, the Hornets held on to take all three points, giving them their first three-game win streak this season and only their third away victory of the campaign.