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November 24 2020 3.38am

Watford 1 - 0 Palace

Sat Dec 15 2001 - League

Palace lost 1-0 to Watford at Vicarage Road, going down to a first half goal by Gifton Noel-Williams.

Noel-Williams' strike was the only moment of any note in a dour first half played in freezing conditions.

In the 32nd minute, Alex Kolinko pulled off a great save to deny a free header from Tommy Smith from a Steven Glass cross.

But the only goal of the game came five minutes before the break. Noel-Williams drilled a low shot from the edge of the box, after a flick-on from Micah Hyde, to leave an unsighted Kolinko no chance.

Palace rallied, but could not get back into the game although it was Watford's only real effort on goal.

Clinton Morrison had a volley blocked by a defender and Dougie Freedman went close.

In the second half, Trevor Francis brought on Jovan Jirovski and Steve Thomson and this had an immediate effect for the visitors.

Palace had a 15 minute spell of pressure and Watford's Alec Chamberlain made good saves to deny close-range efforts from Freedman and Morrison.

He then tipped over a Kit Symons header from a Kirovski freekick and Thomson saw his deflected cross bounce twice on the crossbar. Had Palace scored any of these chances, the game would have been for the taking.

At the other end, Kolinko produced another stunning reaction save from Noel-Williams and Watford hit the bar themselves in the last ten minutes from Noel-Williams.

Man of the Match: Pulled of two outstanding saves.

Post match comments:

Trevor Francis said: "For the first time since I had been in charge of Palace, I laid into my players at half-time. I didn't like what I had seen.

"They looked a bit sharper after being given a rocket at half-time. We needed to put them under pressure and our response was excellent.

"On another day we might have got a result. If we had scored early after the break I think it would have been very different."

Assistant Watford manager Ray Wilkins said: "We got a fine goal from Gifton, who could have had a second after the break, and I thought we played very well.

"You give yourself a chance if your keeping clean sheets. We've got the ability to nick one at the other end and I think that showed today.

"Now we've got a series of games coming up against teams above us in the table and we've got to drag them back into a dogfight."

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Match Stats

Ground: Vicarage Road (Attendance: 16499)

Watford: Chamberlain, Blondeau (Doyley 19), Vega, Cox, Robinson, Vernazza, Hyde, Glass (Gayle 69), Noel-Williams, Helguson (Fisken 49), Smith.

Subs not used: Baardsen, Noble.

Bookings: Glass 9, Blondeau 17.

Goal: Noel-Williams 41.

Palace: Kolinko, Smith, Edwards, Symons, Harrison, Hopkin (Black 77), Mullins (Kirovski 46), Rodger (Thomson 46), Riihilahti, Freedmam, Morrison.

Subs not used: Austin, Carasso.

Booked: Smith 14.

Referee: G P Barber (Pyrford)

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