- Goals either side of the break from Shawcross and Crouch win the game for Stoke
- Doucouré and Prodl come closest for the Hornets
- 18-year-old Michael Folivi makes his Watford debut as a second-half substitute
Two goals either side of the half gave Stoke City all three points on a chilly Tuesday evening in Stoke-on-Trent.
Ryan Shawcross opened the scoring in the last minute of added time in the first-half with an instinctive finish from close-range.
Peter Crouch notched a second shortly after the interval, finishing past Heurelho Gomes after the Hornets had started the second-half brightly.
The Golden Boys fought on bravely, but it would be the Potters who would claim three points at the bet365 Stadium.
Walter Mazzarri made three changes for the Hornets after Sunday's Spurs defeat.
Odion Ighalo and Craig Cathcart dropped to the bench, while Nordin Amrabat missed out through injury.
In came Christian Kabasele and Miguel Britos, while Valon Behrami returned from injury to take a place in midfield.
Spurs debutant Brandon Mason joined the substitutes' bench with fellow young pros Michael Folivi and Andrew Eleftheriou.
On a bitterly cold and windy evening, it was the hosts who came closest inside the opening 15 minutes. Marko Arnautovic broke into the Hornets’ area and cutback to Walters, only for Britos to block superbly.
Stoke were using Crouch’s height at most opportunities, with the forward bringing the best out of former teammate Gomes, forcing the stopper into a smart save to his right from a header.
The Golden Boys’ advances forward came few and far between, but Abdoulaye Doucouré found himself in a great position as we approached the end of the first-half. The midfielder found space in the area, but opted to pass to Adlene Guedioura, when a shot looked the better option.
It looked as if the Hornets were heading in level, only for a lapse in concentration deep into added time. Shawcross found himself unmarked from a corner, and the defender swept home coolly on the half-volley.
With Behrami unable to continue after the break, Mazzarri brought on Odion Ighalo as the visitors went with two in attack.
A reaction came as Lee Grant was forced into action swiftly after the restart, denying Doucouré with a sharp save to his left, however the Potters added a second minutes later.
Charlie Adam’s delivery was missed by Sebastian Prödl, allowing Crouch the chance to instinctively slot past Gomes.
Credit to the Hornets, they continued to battle with Guedioura and Ighalo both having chances blocked by a resilient Potters backline.
Jerome Sinclair was the next to be introduced, and he also come close with a header cleared off the line, before Prödl flicked wide from the next cross.
Michael Folivi became the second Academy graduate to make his debut inside three days as he came on for the final ten minutes, but to no avail as Stoke claimed the win
HORNETS: Gomes (GK); Kaboul, Prödl (Folivi, 80), Kabasele, Britos; Doucouré, Guedioura (Sinclair, 68), Behrami (Ighalo 46), Capoue, Holebas; Deeney (c).
Subs not used: Pantilimon (GK), Cathcart, Mason, Eleftheriou.
Booked: Doucouré (76), Kabasele (90).
POTTERS: Grant (GK); Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi; Diouf (Afellay, 68), Allen, Adam (Whelan 82), Pieters; Arnautovic; Crouch, Walters.
Subs not used: Given (GK); Bardsley, Imbula, Shaqiri, Bojan.
Goals: Shawcross (45+3), Crouch (49).
Booked: Diouf (19).
Attendance: 27,010 (961 Watford fans).