On today’s evidence the need to find what the head coach has described as ‘the right striker’ is now more pressing than it ever was.

However, it’s also looking more likely that the plan to operate with a wafer-thin squad isn’t going to be viable.

Watford had enough of the ball and spent ample time around the Stoke box – especially in the last quarter of the game – to have eked a point out of this.

However, home keeper Mark Travers only needed to make two saves, and while the home fans were howling for the whistle it was not as if the Hornets were peppering the goal.

The first half was particularly poor. It wasn’t that Stoke bettered the Hornets during that opening 45 minutes, more that Watford seemed to have forgotten the basics that Valerien Ismael had drilled into them.

Too many long aimless long balls forward, possession turned over too easily and no threat offered in attack.

Of course, fingers will be pointed at Vakoun Bayo, but he didn’t do much wrong. However, with time running him out and the Ivorian having chased everything, it was crying out for a change up front. Someone who could hold the ball up, link play, make the home defence worry.

However, all five subs were used and Bayo stayed on, and without that ability to alter the front line it was left to the wide players and midfielders to try and prise the Stoke defence open.

The likes of Matheus Martins, Yaser Asprilla and Giorgi Chakvetadze did find ways through or around the home rearguard, but too often it didn’t lead to an attempt on goal.

There were penalty appeals when the Georgian went down inside the six-yard box, but replays showed it was more him looking for contact before it actually arrived. Not a decision you get as an away team.

This was a game where Watford could have got a point, but their lack of goal attempts meant whether should have done so is debatable.

A new striker has been the shout all summer long, and today will rightly amplify that. Watford look solid, they play attractive football and they clearly approach games with a very different mindset.

What they haven’t done up until now is given themselves that attacking pivot who scores, provides and causes opponents to have half an eye on him all the time.

There will be bumps into the road when you follow a totally new direction, but the first half of this game was so far detached from what we’d seen so far as to be particularly lamentable.

The second half was better, but without the threat required to get points on the road in a division like the Championship.

The thin squad looks thinner with another injury, the Hornets are down to one fit full-back now and while it’s nice to see an Academy player on the bench it really ought to be because the manager wants to use him, not because options are very limited.

The transfer window is slowly closing, and in the time left this defeat showed Watford may well need the two or three incomings that Ismael referred to on Friday – and possibly more than that.

There was one enforced change to the starting line-up as Jake Livermore came in for Francisco Sierralta, who was ruled out due to a quad injury.

Tom Ince was in the matchday 18 for the first time since signing in the summer, while 18-year-old James Collins – who impressed for the Under-21s last season – was also on the bench.

The first half was a poor affair, as neither side was able to string much together, and goal attempts were few and far between.

The game was punctuated by free kick for silly fouls in the middle third, and as a spectacle is was dull viewing.

The first goal attempt came after 14 minutes when Jordan Thompson shot way over the bar, and Watford’s first effort of the game from James Morris in the 22nd minute was equally wayward.

It took until the 24th minute for either keeper to make a save, and when Dan Bachmann was tested by an angled shot from Andre Vidigal it was a routine stop.

Morris had to go off late in the first half – he seemed to be caught at Johnson as they contested a ball midway inside the Watford half.

It wasn’t a foul and Morris may have over stretched, but he stayed down and, when he did get up, he was holding the back of his upper leg . . . the hamstring area.

He walked off the pitch but was replaced by Yaser Asprilla who went out to the right, with Ken Sema dropping in at left back.

A readily forgettable first half ended with Johnson finishing a run through the middle with a shot that was always heading wide.

Watford flew out of the blocks after the break and had three goal attempts in the first three minutes.

First a great bit of skill from Sema on the left got him into the box. His cross was partially blocked and spun into the air, where Asprilla could only send an instinctive header over the bar.

A minute later and a quick break out from Watford saw Matheus Martins clear down the left. He slipped the ball inside to half-time sub Ismael Kone, and he rolled it to Asprilla for a 25-yard shot that cleared the bar.

Within 60 seconds more patient build-up ended with Martins curling a shot from just outside the box that Travers held at full stretch.

But then the home side took the lead in some style after 52 minutes. Vidigal took a cross on his chest at the back of the box and swivelled to beat Bachmann with a sweet, rising volley - though questions will be asked as to how he had the time to do all that so close to the Watford goal.

Going behind brought a double sub for Watford as Giorgi Chakvetadze and Edo Kayembe replaced Imran Louza and Jake Livermore, and soon after Ince came on for Martins to make his debut.

It could so easily have been 1-1 in the 73rd minute. Chakvetdaze jinked past a tackle on the edge of the box and then rolled a pass to Asprilla. He checked inside a tackle and unleashed a shot that Travers pushed away, just beyond the incoming Ince.

Two minutes later Sema tried his luck from 25 yards but his effort flew wide of the back post.

In the 78th minute Watford players and fans shouted long and hard for a penalty but Mr Bell wasn’t interested and the replay showed Chakvetadze was on his way down before the sliding defender got to him.

The Hornets continued to pile forward in the closing stages but didn’t test Travers enough, and they were nearly caught out two minutes from time when Mmaee surged forward in a two-on-one but his shot was deflected just wide.

Watford: Bachmann; Andrews, Porteous, Hoedt, Morris (Asprilla 43); Livermore (Kayembe 61); Dele-Bashiru (Kone ht), Louza (Chakvetadze 61); Sema, Bayo, Martins (Ince 71). Subs: Hamer; Pollock, Collins