It was better. Not great, but better.

Admittedly, Wednesday night's pitiful display set a bar so low you could almost clear it by tripping up.

But when you’ve lost three on the spin and not won away since January, you’ll take anything you can get, especially when more shocking defending at a set-piece helped the home side go 1-0 up.

Valerien Ismael rang the changes, and that was not really a surprise after the shambles in Sunderland.

Ryan Porteous was left out for the first time this season, Imran Louza was also dropped, Giorgi Chakvetadze was on the bench and Ryan Andrews was suspended after his red card.

In came Jake Livermore, Yaser Asprilla, Edo Kayembe and Matheus Martins, the latter feeling ready to play after his family bereavement.

The Hornets lined up as a 4-5-1 out of possession, and then looked for Asprilla and Martins to get up and support Bayo when the Hornets had the ball so they could quickly move to 4-3-3.

And, to be fair, they looked pretty solid. Livermore patrolled in front of the two centre-halves, Kayembe sat just in front of him and it was quite clear the Hornets were content to see if the home side could find a way through.

They created very little themselves but looked able to withstand what Cardiff offered, until they had another shocker at a corner. Zonal marking is great when it works, but not when it leaves the home side’s big centre-half at the back of the six-yard box with time and space to score.

Vakoun Bayo failed to capitalise on a chance when he nicked a back pass, and the away fans booed the team off when the first half ended – it was hard to disagree with their sentiments, given this had all the portents of another insipid away performance.

Then, for once, early in the second half the Hornets were the beneficiaries of a dreadful error to draw level, and that swung the game totally in their favour.

Cardiff looked edgy, the home fans were unsettled and Watford suddenly looked able to win the game. Trouble was, for all their possession, and neat approach play, they weren’t creating.

So, for the second time, the home side tried to gift them a goal except this time Tom Ince shot over from 12 yards when presented with the ball inside the box – surely any on-target effort either side of a totally exposed Alnwick would have delivered an away win.

This was, as stated earlier, better than has been seen of late. There was some character, there was some desire and the Hornets were applauded off at the end.

There has to be some context though. It took a dreadful error to get them back in the game, and you cannot fail to take the sort of chance Ince was presented with.

Also it’s going to be very hard to win games if 56% possession only leads to one goal attempt on target.

Nonetheless, for 45 minutes this looked to be going as horribly wrong as Wednesday night’s debacle, and in the current climate even the smallest crumb of comfort feels like a feast.

The Hornets head into the international break with a point and sit 20th in the table. The rebuild, consistency, commitment and confidence need to be even more evident when games resume later this month though.

The game started very slowly with neither side venturing forward, content to play keep-ball in and around the middle third.

Watford had a chance of sorts in the 12th minute when Martins low cross eluded Vakoun Bayo and ran through to Alnwick.

However, the home side started to offer more and in the 16th minute Grant attacked down the left, got into the box and released a shot that Bachmann dived to save with one hand. The loose ball was rolling across the six-yard box but Hoedt stretched and poked it away to deny Tanner a tap in.

The home side had an even better chance five minutes later. Edo Kayembe lost the ball in the centre circle, Grant prodded it between Francisco Sierralta's legs and ran clear from just inside the Watford half. He wasn't going to be caught but as Bachmann came out to narrow the angle the striker sent a wild shot way over the bar.

Tanner then saw a shot from the right deflected just wide, and the spell of pressure told in the 25th minute as Cardiff went ahead – however, not for the first time this season, there was a massive assist from the Watford defence.

Ralls swung over a corner from the right, there was a flick on from a group of players and McGuinness had been left unattended at the back of the six-yard box to hook a volley in.

It was a smart finish from the defender but such technique is a whole lot easier when you’ve nobody within touching distance of you.

Watford had their first shot in the 32nd minute, but only in the loosest sense of the word. The ball broke to Bayo 20 yards out, the striker was in space but dragged his effort horribly wide.

Four minutes later Bayo exchanged passes with Asprilla, who tried to play a one-two. The ball was deflected wide by a defender with Alnwick wrong footed.

From the corner Hoedt got a great flick and the ball looped towards the back post where Asprilla was unmarked. The ball was too high though and the Colombian stretched but could only head over.

Then, on the stroke of half-time, a great chance went to waste.

Ng's risky back pass was intercepted by Bayo, who had got partly round Alnwick on his way into the six-yard box. The striker tried to play a square pass, hit Alnwick and the ball deflected off him and out of play for a goal kick.

Watford drew level nine minutes into the second half and, after so many recent errors of their own, they benefitted from a Cardiff defensive howler.

McGuinness played a back pass to Alnwick, he had a heavy touch, and Bayo nipped in to steal the ball and this time rolled it into the empty net.

The goal changed the pattern of the game as Watfore grew in belief and the home side became very sloppy.

In the 67th minute Imran Louza released Martins on the left, he got all the way to the by-line and pulled the ball back but it ran across the face of goal and out of the box.

Without troubling Alnwick too much, Watford were bossing possession and spending prolonged periods in the Cardiff half.

However they passed up a gift-wrapped chance with 12 minutes to go which probably showed this was not to be the day the nine-month wait for an away win ended.

Wintle lost the ball in his own box and presented it to Tom Ince 12 yards out, unmarked and in space. But, with only Alnwick to beat, he sent his shot over the bar.

Watford: Bachmann; Ngakia, Sierralta (Porteous 63), Hoedt, Lewis, Livermore, Asprilla (Ince 57), Bayo, Dele-Bashiru (Louza 57), Martins (Rajovic 84), Kayembe. Subs: Hamer, Kone, Healey, Chakvetadze, Morris.