BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace extended their unbeaten run to three matches but were fortunate to earn a goalless draw against bottom-placed Watford.
James McArthur should have put Palace ahead inside 10 minutes but volleyed wide when given too much space in the penalty area. That was as good as the Eagles produced in a tepid opening 45 minutes.
It was a game largely absent of any quality in front of either goal. Ismaila Sarr caused Jeffrey Schlupp some trouble and had an early chance, but the Senegalese failed to create enough space to shoot.
Watford, managed by caretaker and former Palace academy graduate Hayden Mullins, were the better side. Their game plan, effectively to stop Wilfried Zaha at all costs, worked perfectly and the Ivorian was booked for a frustrated challenge midway through the first half.
He could have seen a second yellow card towards the end of the game had a subtle kick aimed at Kiko Femenia made contact with the Spaniard following yet another foul on the winger.
New Hornets boss Nigel Pearson, sat in the stands and introduced to the fans of his new club before kick off, would have been the happier manager at the break.
Watford continued to grow in confidence in the second half. Vicente Guaita was forced into two saves by Craig Cathcart and then Roberto Pereyra.
Gerard Deulofeu should have scored when he burst through the Palace defence but fizzed his effort wide.
The Eagles lacked enough attacking impetus or even a repeat of the moment of individual brilliance which Schlupp provided to win last Tuesday’s game against Bournemouth. The Ghanaian was withdrawn at half-time and an injury would further add to Roy Hodgson’s defensive woes.
Jairo Riedewald made his first Premier League appearance since April 2018 in place of Schlupp.
Guaita did well to beat Troy Deeney to Pereyra’s low cross on 75 minutes and Palace began to grow frustrated by their inability to break down a rigid Watford defence.
When Palace did get near the Hornets’ goal, Christian Kabasele was usually in the way. The defender made an excellent block to deny McArthur with 10 minutes to go.
And when the Eagles did eventually get past the Belgian international and his Watford teammates, Jordan Ayew lashed his effort over the bar. At the other end, a fantastic Gary Cahill interception prevented Sarr from tapping into an empty net as both sides shared the points.