JUST when Dougie Freedman thought it was safe to go back into the transfer market...

At 2.59pm on Saturday the new season stretched ahead of Wanderers like the open sea. Sure, there were big doubts over whether the squad has enough goalscorers but at least the manager had fixed that pesky leaky defence, right?

Wrong, apparently.

By 3pm and 15 seconds, the Whites’ ship was taking on water. Debutant Dean Moxey had under-estimated the sticky, overgrown Vicarage Road turf and played a sloppy back-pass to Andy Lonergan, presenting a chance to Troy Deeney that he really should have taken.

That was a let-off. But just like those swimmers on Amity Island, Wanderers just didn’t heed the warning. And it was about to turn into a bloodbath.

Well, not quite. Yes, the Whites defended dreadfully in that opening 45 minutes but it is too early to start demanding wholesale changes at the back.

Moxey will inevitably shoulder most of the blame for a couple of big errors early on but it is also far too early to be labelling the full-back the “next Gerald Cid” – his CV deserves far more respect than that.

The normally-reliable Kevin McNaughton, Matt Mills, Jay Spearing and Tim Ream all showed chinks in their armour too but Freedman will be praying this was just a bad day at the proverbial office, rather than a sign of things to come.

The manager has been here before, of course. Fans are questioning whether his starting line-up was too defensive and without the attacking potency of a Liam Feeney or Rob Hall, it did all feel rather static for the first 45 minutes at least.

Darren Pratley had been given the central link role between midfield and attack but had a game to forget. Ahead of him, Craig Davies was preferred to Jermaine Beckford and worked hard for the scraps he was given, whilst producing just a single well-struck volley by ways of goal-scoring threat.

While things did improve after Feeney’s introduction at the break, especially in the case of opposite winger Chung-Yong Lee, the result is a difficult one for Freedman to defend.

The manager passed off the goals as “uncharacteristic” – being as all three of them came from long, sweeping passes from the Watford back-line. But any defence of a 3-0 defeat on the opening day of the season is going to be a hard sell.

While most accept the changing financial face of the club could bring its fair share of hardship, disorganisation is another matter altogether.

Freedman finds himself at a disadvantage because he does not have a deep stock of goodwill banked up with the Whites fans. Another start like last season, and he knows full well it will turn sour quickly on the terraces.

The Scot is confident that there no need for alarm, needless to say his views are not necessarily shared by the more dissident members of the Wanderers support.

What was so disappointing about the Watford game is that the Whites were put on the back-foot so early.

Moxey’s 15-second mistake set the nervousness spreading throughout the side, “it was contagious,” agreed fellow defender Kevin McNaughton.

The debutant left-back was not the only culprit. So many passes went astray inside the first 25 minutes that Watford were being invited to put on the pressure.

The lack of pressure on the ball contributed to the home side’s first goal as Gabriele Angela had plenty of space to drift a pass over Matt Mills for Troy Deeney to race on to, tapping the bouncing ball over Lonergan for the opener.

It was exactly the same seven minutes later – this time on Watford’s right as Daniel Toszer delivered a ball over the top for Vydra, who escaped Ream’s clutches rather too easily before slotting the ball past Lonergan.

Deeney should have made it three when Lonergan got nowhere near Lewis McGugan’s corner, leaving him with a free header at the far post that bounced wide.

A wild blast from Medo was as good as it got for Wanderers in an attacking sense, their half summed up better by a string of misplaced passes just before the interval that brought a chorus of boos from their own support.

Things did improve in the second half, even though it started with Ecuador World Cup defender Juan Carlos Paredes hammering a shot against the bar.

Feeney injected pace and purpose on the right, while Chung-Yong saw more of the ball and became an infinitely more potent threat on the left.

Moxey’s afternoon wasn’t improving – Deeney beating him on the right to present a simple chance for Amen Abdi that was somehow skewed wide. Moments later, the same player saw a shot blocked well by Lonergan.

Freedman opted to bring the hapless defender off at that point for Dorian Dervite, leaving Ream to play on the left.

Again, Wanderers picked up. Chung-Yong had a clever chip tipped over by Heurelho Gomes and Craig Davies, who had worked hard, volleyed just wide. Had they scored at that point, who knows what might have happened?

But they didn’t, and it was another direct ball from the back that put a final nail in Wanderers’ coffin.

Dervite was the guilty party this time, caught flat-footed by Tozser’s long pass from the back, the Frenchman couldn’t stop Forestieri galloping through and stabbing the ball past Lonergan for the third.

Wanderers made a last effort for a consolation with Mills heading over the top, and Gomes making a good save from Davies, but it was much too late to affect the outcome.

It was one game, and should be put into perspective. Three years ago, Owen Coyle’s side trounced QPR 4-0 to top the embryonic Premier League table and we all know how that worked out.

But make no mistake, there is some immediate repair work to do if Wanderers are to avoid sliding into those dark and dangerous waters once again.