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Match Reports

Report: Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace

21 April 2018

Palace edged another point closer to safety as they claimed a goalless draw at Vicarage Road against Watford, in the proverbial game of two halves.

The woodwork was struck three times in the game, with Stefano Okaka heading onto the crossbar after only a matter of minutes during a first half that the hosts enjoyed the better of, but after the break Palace were much improved, with Luka Milivojevic and James Tomkins both thwarted by the bar and post respectively.

However neither side could find a way to break the deadlock ensuring they had to settle for a point apiece, which leaves the Eagles six points clear of the relegation zone with three games to play.

The first half was a disappointing affair for the Eagles, with their opponents enjoying much more possession in dangerous areas and thus a procession of opportunities, which began after just two minutes when Will Hughes screwed wide when well-placed.

60 seconds later Palace enjoyed a stroke of luck when Troy Deeney’s cross was met powerfully by the head of Okaka, but the Italian international’s header clattered off the corner of Wayne Hennessey’s goalframe, and that fortune continued to be pushed when Deeney fizzed a low cross-shot into the box that tempted Joel Ward to dangle a leg at, but thankfully Hennessey was alert and managed to prevent it creeping into his net.

The Welshman was the only shot-stopper being tested and although he wasn’t stretched too much to save a weak Craig Cathcart attempt after a corner wasn’t effectively cleared, nor Roberto Pereyra’s blast from the edge of the area which fizzed over the crossbar, the hosts continued to control proceedings as a scrappy first half, littered with niggly fouls and mis-placed passes from both sides, continued.

Palace’s only response came on 35 minutes when Tomkins tamely nodded a free-kick straight at Orestis Karnezis, but even after that the chances continued to fall to the Hornets and Hughes would fire over before Deeney shot straight at Hennessey as a sluggish opening 45 for Palace came to a close.

After the restart Hodgson’s team finally began to move through the gears and on 61 minutes, they nearly found a way to edge in front. Wilfried Zaha won a free-kick right on the edge of the box which Milivojevic stepped up to take, and wrapped his effort against the same piece of woodwork struck by Okaka in the first half, with the rebound eluding all Eagles inside a congested penalty area.

Then there was a moment of controversy when during another scramble inside the box, Adrian Mariappa slid into Zaha and brought the winger to ground, but under pressure from the home fans baying for blood, Chris Kavanagh booked the Ivorian for a dive instead of pointing to the spot.

But still Palace pushed and once again the woodwork was rattled on 69 minutes when Tomkins met a Yohan Cabaye corner and saw his downward header bounce off the turf and onto the post with Karnezis scrambling across his line, and Deeney managed to hoof the ball away in the nick of time with Mamadou Sakho primed to fire it home.

That ensured the tension increased as the game remained on a knife-edge and Richarlison curled a shot from close range over the crossbar, and then Hennessey got down quickly to deny the Brazilian again with 10 minutes remaining when he was slipped in on the left to pull the trigger.

As time ticked away, neither team could conjure up the moment of magic needed to claim all the points but Palace did extend their unbeaten run at Vicarage Road to seven games, stretching back to 2009.

Watford: Karnezis, Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holbas, Hughes (Gray 78), Capoue, Doucoure, Okaka (Feminia 70), Pereyra (Richarlison 55), Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Janmaat, Britos, Sinclair.

Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur (Benteke 81), Milivojevic, McArthur, Loftus-Cheek, Townsend, Zaha. Subs not used: Speroni, Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Riedewald, Lee, Sørloth.

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