The Premier League’s lowest-scoring teams Watford and Crystal Palace played out a disappointing goalless draw at Vicarage Road.
After an uninspiring first half that produced no shots on target for either side, bottom side Watford improved following the break but Gerard Deulofeu fired their best opportunity wide.
The visitors’ Wilfried Zaha endured a difficult and physical afternoon as he picked up a yellow card after tangling with Christian Kabasele in the first half.
Watford, who are without a home win this season, we’re being watched by new manager Nigel Pearson as Hayden Mullins took charge of his final game as interim boss.
The Hornets are six points from safety, while Palace stays seventh, a point outside the Europa League places.
Watford took the decision to appoint former Leicester boss Pearson on a deal until the end of the season on Friday, and the new manager was presented to the home supporters before kick-off.
Pearson is the club’s third manager of the season, and this performance gave some indication of why they are struggling.
The Hornets are the lowest scorers in the league with nine goals, and they failed to register a single shot on target in the first half.
They started both halves brightly and showed glimpses of promise through Ismaila Sarr but his final ball often failed to match up to his exciting build-up play.
Deulofeu had their best opportunity soon after the interval when he latched on to Troy Deeney’s flick-on to drive at the Palace defence, but his low shot went wide.
The hosts showed some fight as they poured forward in search of the winner late on, and they have nearly gifted three points when Martin Kelly headed back towards his own goal.
There was a scramble for possession which eventually fell for Sarr, but Vicente Guaita was quick off his line to close down space and claim the ball off the forward’s toes.
Watford is winless in their past 12 home Premier League games, their longest run without a victory on home soil in the league ever, but Pearson may just believe he can turn Vicarage Road into a fortress with the spirit on display late on from his players.
Palace came into the game having risen to seventh on the back of consecutive league victories, following a run of five games without a win before that.
But like Watford, Palace has struggled in front of goal this season, only their hosts on target less often.
Watford paid particular attention to talisman Zaha and managed to rile the Ivorian from the opening stages.
Zaha was incensed after picking up an unfortunate yellow card in a tangle with Kabasele before continuing to tussle with Etienne Capoue throughout the afternoon.
Getting under Zaha’s skin can sometimes backfire for opponents, but Watford’s plan paid off as the visitors failed to register a single shot on target all game.
At the other end, centre-back pairing James Tomkins and the returning Gary Cahill repelled the physical challenge of Deeney.
Experienced defender Cahill made more blocks than any other player on the field (three) as Palace stood firm, and he did just enough to prevent Deeney from making sufficient contact with his close-range header late on.
Palace has kept three consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since March 2017, and their steely determination at the back may just keep them out of trouble this season when the forwards struggle to fire.
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Source – BBC