Neither side was able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck in a first half low on quality, although Andre Gray should have given the hosts an early lead when he somehow lifted Roberto Pereyra’s low cross over the bar with the goal gaping.
Craig Cathcart almost diverted Chris Basham’s curling delivery into his own net soon afterwards, but Ben Foster spared his captain’s blushes with a magnificent fingertip save.
Watford improved marginally in the second half and Danny Welbeck should have broken the deadlock after latching on to Gray’s flick-on, only for Dean Henderson to thwart the former Arsenal man with a smart stop.
Henderson was forced into action again in stoppage time, getting down low to his right to stop Craig Dawson’s header.
The Hornets move on to three points but remain bottom of the table, while Chris Wilder’s side climb to 12th place after stretching their unbeaten away run to four matches.
Hornets made to rue profligacy
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores said during the week he wants to “improve and define” Watford’s style of play, but Hornets fans would have settled for any kind of victory against a Blades side who have picked up more points on their travels this season than at Bramall Lane.
The Vicarage Road club have now gone 12 matches without a victory in the league – their worst run since their relegation season in 1999-2000.
They may have registered their first Premier League clean sheet of the campaign against Wilder’s team, but they failed to make the most of three golden opportunities to earn themselves a precious victory, the first of which fell to Gray inside the opening 10 minutes.
Tom Cleverley’s pass down the right-hand side caught the Blades’ defence asleep, allowing Pereyra to run on to the loose ball unchallenged.
The Argentine picked out Gray on the edge of the six-yard area, but the striker could only scoop the ball over the crossbar.
Gray’s miss was the hosts’ only clear-cut opportunity of the first half as United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession without creating any major chances of their own.
Watford started the second half brightly, however, and should have broken the deadlock when Welbeck was played through following a swift counter-attack, but the former England international was denied by Henderson’s right leg.
The impressive Henderson then produced a fine one-handed save to deny Dawson late on as the Blades held on for a hard-earned point.
Henderson makes amends for Liverpool blunder
Having been denied a point in cruel circumstances against league leaders Liverpool last weekend when Henderson let Georginio Wijnaldum’s tame shot into the net, the trip to Vicarage Road presented an altogether different challenge for Wilder and his players.
They struggled to create meaningful opportunities despite enjoying more than 60% possession, but the point extends their unbeaten start away from home to four games – a feat they last achieved in the top flight in 1972.
Their best chance of the encounter came via Watford skipper Cathcart, who had his goalkeeper to thank for preventing his attempted clearance from nestling in the far corner in the first half.
Callum Robinson shot straight at Foster from the edge of the box in the second half, while Enda Stevens and John Lundstram both fired over the bar from promising positions.
But the afternoon belonged to Henderson, who delivered the perfect response to his costly mistake against Jurgen Klopp’s side a week ago when Wilder said he “needs to do better”.
The Blades goalkeeper did brilliantly to deny Welbeck early in the second half, while Dawson’s low header looked destined for the back of the net until the 22-year-old palmed the ball to safety with a strong right hand.
Man of the match – Dean Henderson (Sheffield United)
A rare clean sheet for Watford – the stats
- Watford are winless in their eight Premier League games this season (D3 L5), their longest run without a victory from the start of a campaign in any division since 2006-07 (10 in the Premier League).
- Watford have failed to score in five of their eight Premier League games this season – the most of any side in the competition.
- Sheffield United have kept 24 clean sheets in the league since the start of last season; no side has recorded more shut-outs in this time in the top four tiers (excluding play-offs).
- Watford have ended a run of 19 Premier League games without a clean sheet (45 goals conceded), their first shut-out since February.
- Sheffield United are unbeaten in their opening four games to a season on the road (W1 D3) in any division for the first time since 2012-13, and in the top flight since 1972-73.
- Watford have failed to score in each of their last three Premier League games, the Hornets’ longest goalless run since April 2018 (three games).
- Watford missed all three of their big chances against Sheffield United; in fact, no Premier League side has a worse big-chance conversion rate than the Hornets this season (21% – 3/14).
‘We need to support the players’ – what the managers said
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores: “We tried to go for the win but Sheffield United are a very confident and physical side. We didn’t concede in a long time, so that’s a good thing.
“The players responded really well and we need to support them. They were a little nervous with decision-making, everything is so fast, but I think we had opportunities that we can work on.
“A clean sheet is a good thing and we talked last week about not conceding. We’re working hard together to get more confidence for the future.
“We have the break now with a lot of nationalities in our team, so we will come back and continue to work hard.”
“If we can’t win then we need to take something from these games. The balance of the team is good with the amount of possession and chances we had, the players were outstanding.
“I think we’re a couple of points light, but nine points is a decent start. We’ve got a nice tasty game against Arsenal to look forward to after the international break.”
On goalkeeper Dean Henderson: “He’s a really good keeper and he’s reacted the right way. He was always going to play and he was pivotal to the clean sheets we had last year.
“It’s a tough old changing room but he’s come through it. There’s no hiding place at international level or the likes of Manchester United, so that’s what he’s got to get used to.”
- 5PrödlSubstituted forDawsonat 57′minutes
- 10WelbeckSubstituted forSarrat 77′minutes
- 18GraySubstituted forDeulofeuat 59′minutes
- 7LundstramBooked at 90mins
- 9McBurnieBooked at 57minsSubstituted forMoussetat 62′minutes
- 11RobinsonSubstituted forSharpat 71′minutes
- Andre Marriner
- Shots on Target
Attempt missed. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Attempt saved. Craig Dawson (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Gerard Deulofeu.
Christian Kabasele (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Daryl Janmaat (Watford).
Offside, Watford. Ismaila Sarr tries a through ball, but Gerard Deulofeu is caught offside.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Ismaila Sarr (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Craig Dawson (Watford).
Attempt blocked. Roberto Pereyra (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Daryl Janmaat.
Roberto Pereyra (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Watford. Gerard Deulofeu replaces Andre Gray.
Substitution, Watford. Craig Dawson replaces Sebastian Prödl because of an injury.
Christian Kabasele (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Tom Cleverley (Watford).
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Chris Basham.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by John Egan.