The ink is barely dry on Valerien Ismael’s new contract and his Watford side have given him a very clear reminder of the size of the job he has on his hands just to keep the Hornets away from the Championship’s trap door.

Coming hot on the heels of the total humbling at Leeds and the misery of Middlesbrough at home, this was another abject, often spineless performance packed full of errors, poor decisions and very little in the way of goal threat.

Just before the end Ryan Andrews was shown a straight red for a foul and, to make matters worse, those Watford fans gathered high behind one goal had travelled a good five hours to get to the Stadium of Light, and they’ll be getting home as the milkman starts his rounds tomorrow morning.

Come Saturday, they’ll be heading on another long journey for the game at Cardiff – fans who have not seen Watford win or even keep a clean sheet away from home since January.

The poor souls here tonight had very little to get excited about. A couple of shots from distance maybe, but otherwise corners and free kicks that came to nothing.

To be fair, Sunderland didn’t look like world-beaters, but then they had the added assistance of Watford’s defending.

The home side deserved to win but they weren’t brilliant. Their best player tonight was Watford.

Having done well for nearly all the first half, Watford then merely escorted full-back Niall Huggins from the wing into their area and watched him smack a rising drive past Dan Bachmann.

Nobody in a Watford shirt offered any sort of challenge – it was like watching a player swerve in and out of cones on a training pitch.

Suddenly the visitors are chasing the game having had a decent foothold in it – and their undoing was all of their own making.

Not only that, Sunderland grew in confidence as a result, and the little resistance Watford mustered after the interval ended after an hour when they allowed the home side to cross, head back into the six-yard box and then head home – again with the minimum of defensive competition for each phase of play.

It matters now how well you play, what formation you use, and which players you pick. Defend like Watford did tonight, and you’ll lose. Simple as that.

There were valid claims for a Watford penalty shortly before Sunderland ahead when Francisco Sierralta was shoved over in the box. However, if we’re relying on those marginal decisions then it shows just how little we’re creating.

The late red card for Andrews for a frustrated lunge in midfield was just further insult to injury.

It was another grim away trip in a list of miserable matches on the road that grows by the month. Thirteen without a win in the league, 15 if you add in cup games.

As at Leeds there was never any serious threat going forward. From early on, it felt like the Hornets needed a clean sheet to have any hope of some reward – and you’d have had Auld Lang Syne ringing in your ears the last time that happened.

Watford mustered 11 goal attempts, but it’s hard to remember any of them – and that’s because they really didn’t amount to anything much at all.

So here we have a team that is shipping goals for fun, have created nothing in the last two away games, and are sitting one place above the relegation zone with another away match to come before the international break.

The head coach, chairman and even the owner have said at some point they are all on the same page. Currently, that page makes pretty grim reading. They need to turn over a new leaf, soon.

There were two changes to the Watford starting XI as they reverted back to 4-3-3. Mileta Rajovic and Yaser Asprilla dropped to the bench, with Tom Ince returning and Giorgi Chakvetadze making his first start.

Due to a family bereavement Matheus Martins was not in the squad, with Ismael saying: “We send all our love to him. He'll only be back with us when the time is right for him.”

The home side made the brighter start and after six minutes a great run from Roberts got him all the way to the edge of the six-yard box but his attempt to drag the ball back was blocked by Daniel Bachmann.

Soon after there was nearly a disaster as Ryan Porteous tried to play a pass across the back but Ba intercepted. However, his attempt to get into the box and shoot was blocked.

The first sniff of an opening for Watford came after 20 minutes as Chakvetadze's clever flick released Jamal Lewis on the left, but his driven cross was too far ahead of his teammates

Four minutes later Roberts broke down the left and squared for Bellingham, but his low shot from the edge of the box was a routine stop for Bachmann.

In the next attack Tom Ince cut in from the right flank and curled a shot that Patterson held.

Slowly Watford were enjoying more of the ball, and for longer, although they were not post a great deal of threat.

In the 32nd minute Ince moved inside from the right and took on an early shot which was curling but didn't have sufficient power to test Patterson

Four minutes before the break referee Mr Davies did Watford no favours at all as there was a clear case for a penalty. A free kick was floated into the box, Francisco Sierralta waited for it drop and O'Nien shoved him over. The official had a great view, but waved play on.

And, ironically, that led to the move that saw Sunderland go ahead in the 43rd minute.

Huggins started on the right touchline, came inside and weaved his way round three Watford defenders who may as well have been holding signs pointing to their goal. The full-back took advantage, sending a rising shot beyond Bachmann.

It was such poor defending that Huggins was basically escorted into the box, and the hard work for the first half was undone on the stroke of the break.

Early in the second half Imran Louza had a shot from the edge of the box saved before Vakoun Bayo fired wildly over from 25 yards.

However, more dismal defending assisted Sunderland on their way to going 2-0 up after an hour.

Burstow chipped a cross to the back post where Bellingham simply outjumped the visiting defence and headed the ball back across goal. Ba was unmarked at the back post and beat Bachmann to the ball to nod home.

It should have been three 10 minutes later. Sub Aouchiche intercepted Wes Hoedt's pass and ran clear into the box. He shot low, Bachmann's body took the sting out of it and Porteous cleared from near the line.

Four minutes from the end a night to forget was compounded as Andrews made a frustrated lunge in midfield and was shown a red card.

Watford: Bachmann; Ngakia (Andrews ht), Porteous, Hoedt, Lewis; Sierralta; Louza (Rajovic 75), Dele-Bashiru (Kone 61); Ince (Asprilla ht), Bayo, Chakvetadze (Healey 61). Subs: Hamer, Livermore, Pollock, Kayembe