Crystal Palace Under-23s made the short journey north to Hertfordshire today in a reverse clash of the first-team's fixture tomorrow. A strong home spell in the first-half and unfortunate goal in the second allowed the Hornets to sting the Eagles to a tune of a 3-0 defeat.
- After a strong Palace start, Watford take the lead through Kane Crichlow
- Watford double their advantage when Domingos Quina hits a sensational long-range effort
- Half-time: Watford 2-0 Palace
- Palace begin the second-half far brighter but Watford add a third via Jayden Bennetts
- The game settles down and Palace can't quite pull a goal back
- Full-time: Watford 3-0 Palace
After the flurry of activity which kick-started Palace’s last match against Colchester United, this afternoon began at a relatively slow pace. That said, both Palace and Watford appeared energised in the Hertfordshire sun and the Eagles were unfortunate not to capitalise on two deep through-balls from Gio McGregor and Malachi Boateng respectively.
Palace’s smart attacking play came closest to paying dividends when Brandon Pierrick squared a cute ball to John-Kymani Gordon, whose carefully placed shot was saved expertly by goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann. Breaking with pace and intent, Watford punished the Eagles for pushing forward so readily when first-team player Domingos Quina fed Kane Crichlow to slot home from 10 yards.
The goal swung the balance of play in Watford’s favour and the Hornets enjoyed chances through Joao Pedro - who hit wide - and Crichlow, whose effort was charged out by Nikola Tavares as the centre-back recovered from a mistimed challenge on the touchline.
The visitors required further last-ditch defending when David Boateng stretched himself along the turf to intercept Pedro’s pass close to goal and, with Tyrick Mitchell requiring brief medical treatment, Palace were relieved to regroup during the pause.
And regroup the Eagles did, with Shaun Derry’s men limiting their hosts to only a smattering of half chances for the next 10 minutes. But one man - Quina - threatened throughout, and the Premier League midfielder proved his worth after 36 minutes by rifling home Watford’s second from 25 yards.
Palace emerged for the second-half with the same energy they’d began the first with. Looking far brighter, the Development team landed a shot on target through McGregor, whose effort was confidently held by Bachmann.
McGregor tried his luck again, but struck wide of goal as the Eagles routinely pushed Watford back towards their own box. As against Colchester on Monday, Kian Flanagan took to the field at half-time and, as against Colchester on Monday, catalysed an attacking spark for the south Londoners.
But neither McGregor, Flanagan or the visiting defence could keep the home side from furthering their lead and Palace’s offensive prominence was cruelly cut down when Jayden Bennetts turned home from six yards.
Palace sought to disrupt Watford’s flow by making a double substitution, but frustratingly arriving striker Rob Street was fouled three times in as many minutes and was reduced to an awkward limp for the remaining passages of play.
The visitors soldiered on and right-back David Boateng was unfortunate not to score when his shot from 15 yards deflected against the Watford defence and to the safety of Bachmann’s gloves.
The game settled down for its closing 15 minutes, with a Palace trialist striking over the bar and Watford appearing happy to defend their lead. The Hornets enjoyed one final chance which Jacob Russell stopped astutely with his legs, but there was to be no late drama at Vicarage Road.
By full-time, the Eagles had been unable to pull a goal back and made the short return to south London following a strong general performance but disappointing result.
Watford: Bachmann, Balogun, Green, Whelan, Barrett, Perkins, Crichlow, Bennetts (Wise 85), Pedro, Quina (Dalby 61), Dele-Bashiru.
Subs not used: Javjeva, Parkes, Hungbo.
Palace: Jacob Russell, D. Boateng, Tavares, Rich-Baghuelou, Mitchell, Kirby (Trialist 68), M.Boateng, Aveiro, McGregor, Gordon (Street 68), Pierrick (Flanagan 45).
Subs not used: Tupper, Hobbs.