There was little to get those who braved the cold excited at the bet365 Stadium on Wednesday night as Stoke and Watford shared the points in a goalless stalemate.
Stoke had the best chance to break the deadlock just after the hour mark when Orestis Karnezis blocked Xherdan Shaqiri’s driven shot and substitute Peter Crouch headed the rebound straight at the goalkeeper.
The half-time parading of new signing Badou Ndiaye, who Stoke have signed from Galatasaray for a fee in the region of £15million, was one of the few other instances that got the home fans off their seats.
Both managers were taking charge of their new teams for only the second time. After making a winning start against Huddersfield 11 days ago, Stoke boss Paul Lambert picked the same starting line up.
Javi Gracia made four changes after seeing Watford go out of the FA Cup at Southampton on Saturday. New signing Gerard Deulofeu made his debut while Tom Cleverley and Troy Deeney returned from injury and Sebastien Prodl was recalled.
It was the Austrian defender who provided Jack Butland with his first piece of work of the night as his low shot from inside the penalty area needed smothering by the Stoke goalkeeper in the second minute.
Watford were unable to build on that positive start, though. The visitors enjoyed more of the ball during the opening stages but were largely kept at arm’s length by Lambert’s men.
Stoke lacked the energy they displayed last time out against Huddersfield but almost took the lead midway through the first half. Adrian Mariappa did well to block Charlie Adam’s shot before Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting curled the rebound narrowly wide of the far post.
Jose Holebas curled a corner kick against the crossbar and just before half-time Watford went close again when Deulofeu’s driven cross was met at the near post by Richarlison but he prodded his effort wide.
Watford will argue that Mame Diouf was lucky to escape with only a yellow card after he raised his hands and shoved over Christian Kabasele in an off-the-ball incident, although replays showed Kabasele went to ground very theatrically.
Karnezis’ double save denied Shaqiri and Crouch before Ryan Shawcross slid in to block Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goalbound effort at the other end after 70 minutes.
Substitute Roberto Pereyra was presented with a decent chance to win the game late on when he pounced on a loose ball 10 yards out but Butland made the block to preserve the point which lifted Stoke back out of the relegation places.