It’s very rare to see just one change made by a team from a league game to a first round cup tie, but head coach Valerien Ismael felt he needed to get more minutes into players while not giving them mixed messages.

Only Daniel Bachmann was missing from the starting XI that so comprehensively beat QPR on Saturday, and while some may see fielding so many ‘starters’ again a few days later as a risk in terms of injury and/or morale – especially if you then go out of the cup as Watford did – Ismael strongly stuck by his choice of team.

“It’s really early in the season and I don’t think we are in any position to make rotations,” he said after the game at The Lamex Stadium.

Stevenage are the kings of Herts after penalty shoot-out

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“I don’t want to give the players the wrong signals. We are here to win and create momentum, to get minutes into legs and to get the fitness to the level we need to play.

“To get into the habit of playing every three days is important.”

One commonality with Saturday was the flying start: not quite as fast as Tom Dele-Bashiru’s 34-second strike at Vicarage Road but Vakoun Bayo’s opener arrived with only five minutes on the clock.

The difference was that Stevenage didn’t roll over in the same way that Rangers, and the Hornets couldn’t retain the control Bayo’s goal gave them.

“We started well again and we were quickly in control for half an hour and then for no reason – I really don’t know why – we completely lost control and didn’t play anymore,” said Ismael.

“It became a fight and our opponent put us exactly where they wanted us. We had no control and it became a hectic game.

“Just at the end of the first half we regained control and came through it, and then we changed some things tactically in the second half and the team reacted well.

“We created the big chances of the second half, but you have to score them. I didn’t recognise any chances for our opponents, just the set pieces.

“Then it’s a penalty shoot-out and they are a 50/50 situation.

“It was a cup game that we took seriously and to get some game time into legs, to get that rhythm. That was the thought tonight.

“We are disappointed about the result because we should have won the game, especially in the second half.”

The free-kick that led to the Hornets early goal was earned for a foul on Jeremy Ngakia, who received treatment and played on, but had to be replaced after 33 minutes.

The Watford head coach was clearly not happy about the challenge on the defender.

“It was a bad tackle I thought,” he said.

“We will assess the injury, and hopefully it is not that bad. It was just a scary moment for him but we just need to wait and see.”