Watford’s bid to maintain their 100 per cent start to the league season were frustrated by the absence of a killer touch in front of the Plymouth Argyle goal as they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets dominated possession and got into plenty of promising attacking positions but they were unable to find the quality when it mattered to beat goalkeeper Conor Hazard despite having 20 goal attempts.

The closest they came to making the breakthrough was during the first half was when Imran Louza hit the post from distance, while Vakoun Bayo will feel he should have done better after the break when he pulled a shot wide after being sent clear by a fine reverse pass from substitute Yaser Asprilla.

The best chance of the match though, came the Pilgrims away in the second half when Daniel Bachmann made a fine save to deny Adam Randell from close range.

Despite the lack of an end product, it was another encouraging performance from the Hornets who played with the intensity and energy Valerien Ismael demands and had plenty of variety to their attacks against a side who posed a much stiffer test than QPR last weekend.

Ismael’s approach carries its risks though, because of the way Watford are trying to build from the back and Bachmann had hearts in mouths on more than one occasion due to loose passes or trying to turn in possession in his own area.

Ismael made two changes to the team that exited the Carabao Cup on penalties at Stevenage on Tuesday.

Bachmann returned in goal in place of Ben Hamer, while Ryan Andrews replaced Jeremy Ngakia who went off injured in the first half at the Lamex Stadium.

Having made ten changes to his side for the 2-0 League Cup victory over Leyton Town, Steven Schumacher’s selection showed just the one alteration from the team that opened up their return to the Championship with a 3-1 victory over Huddersfield Town last weekend, with Saxon Earley replacing Kaine Kesler-Hayden.

Watford controlled possession from the outset and had their first semblance of opening when a long pass from Wesley Hoedt set Matheus Martins away on the left. The Brazilian checked back inside but his cross was too far ahead of Bayo and Ken Sema in the heart of the 18-yard box.

But the Hornets went much closer four minutes later when again the ball was worked out to Martins on the left and his cross was met on the volley by Bayo, who connected well enough but sent his effort the wrong side of Hazard’s right-hand post.

The hosts were getting plenty of early joy down the flanks and they were almost in on the right when Sema released the under-lapping Andrews, but his attempted cut-back from the byline was put behind by the boot of Hazard.

The home side were ramping up the pressure and after a pass from Louza had allowed Bayo to run in behind, the ball was worked back to the Moroccan who took aim from just over 20 yards out and his superb left-footed strike beat the dive of Hazard but went behind off his left-hand upright.

Argyle had been on the back foot for much of the opening 15 minutes but their first attempt arrived when Morgan Whittaker cut inside off the right and his left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area went wide of Bachmann’s near post.

Soon after, the Watford keeper was positive off his line to confidently catch a corner before showing good awareness and distribution to quickly release Martins with a throw.

Within two minutes though, he was holding his hand up apologetically after his poor pass played his side into trouble, but Ryan Porteous got back quickly to challenge Ryan Hardie to deal with the danger.

Bachmann got away with another scare, this time when he tried a Cruyff turn in his area under pressure from Hardie, but the benefits of playing out from the back continued to outweigh the risks as Watford remained positive in their quest to find the breakthrough.

First, Martins fired over the top from the right side of the penalty area after some patient work from Sema, before the Swedish international came inside off the right flank and saw a shot deflected behind.

The Pilgrims full-backs were then given something different to think about as Martins and Sema switched sides shortly after the half-hour mark, but it was Bachmann who was the next keeper forced into action when he had to get down smartly after Hardie had got away from Hoedt in the area.

Hazard held a Tom Dele-Bashiru shot at the other end after more positive intent from Martins with a driving run inside off the right flank, Dan Scarr blocked a shot from Andrews after a rampaging run forward following more eye-catching build-up play, before Sema sliced an effort high and wide after getting a second bite at the cherry in the penalty area as the opening period ended goalless.

Watford were straight back on the front foot after the restart, once again dominating possession and territory, and they almost had an opening when Louza clipped in a cross from the right after a corner had been worked short, but it was just too ahead of Sema.

However, the Hornets had Bachmann to thank were keeping them all-square in the 53rd minute when a made a fine sprawling save to deny Randell, who was presented with a clear opening by Hardie’s lay-off from an Earley pass into the area.

Ismael made his move big time in the 55th minute, making a quadruple substitution. Jake Livermore and Ismael Kone replaced Sierralta and Dele-Bashiru in midfield, while Giorgi Chakvetadze and Asprilla came on for Sema and Martins in attack.

It was a bold, positive move and moments later Watford almost had the breakthrough when Andrews cut the ball back for Bayo, but his effort was deflected narrowly wide from close range.

Fortune was to favour Bachmann again just before the hour when he mis-hit another pass to Randell, who tried to hit the ball back over the keeper from distance, but he was able to get back and catch with relative ease.

Schumacher made his first change in the 62nd minute, bringing on Luke Cundle for Randell, but moments later Hazard made a smart save to deny Andrews after the full-back had been released in the area by Asprilla’s reverse pass.

Plymouth’s second change came in the 69th minute as Finn Azaz replaced Callum Wright, but Watford were continuing to knock at the door, Asprilla the next to miss the target after Kone and Chakvetadze had combined to positive effect in centre midfield to find the Colombian on the right.

Bali Mumba picked up the second booking of the afternoon for a foul on Andrews before Schumacher made a double change, bringing on Ben Waine and Mickel Miller for Mumba and Hardie.

The clear opening that Watford craved looked like it had arrived in the 83rd minute when Asprilla’s reverse pass split the Pilgrims backline, putting Bayo in the clear following a run from left to right, but the striker chose to take the shot on early from outside the area and pulled his effort wide of the far post.

Ismael made a fifth change with one minute of normal time remaining as Edo Kayembe came on for Louza, but soon after Bachmann had to drop to his right to hold a low curling effort from Cundle.

Four minutes of additional time gave the Hornets hope of one final push in search of the breakthrough, but the visitors did their best to run the clock down, leading to Bachmann expressing his frustration to referee Geoff Eltringham at full-time that more minutes had not been added on.

Watford: Bachmann; Andrews, Porteous, Hoedt, Morris; Sierralta (Livermore 55); Louza (Kayembe 89), Dele-Bashiru (Kone 55); Sema (Chakvetadze 55), Bayo, Martins (Asprilla 55). Subs not used: Hamer, Healey, Pollock, Forde.

Plymouth Argyle: Hazard; Edwards, Scarr, Gibson, Earley; C Wright (Azaz 69), Houghton, Randell (Cundle 62), Hardie (Miller 81), Mumba (Waine 81). Subs not used: Burton, Pleguezuelo, Butcher, Warrington, T Wright.

Bookings: Scarr for a foul on Kone (71); Mumba for a foul on Andrews (78).

Referee: Geoff Eltringham.