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May 31 2023 1.07am

Palace 3-1 Watford

April 2 2006

Dougie Freedman

Dougie Freedman

Crystal Palace managed to get the wheels back on the promotion bandwagon by beating Watford 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

But it was not earnt with a solid performance for 90 minutes. In fact, the first half was a dire spectacle. Dowie made changes from the defeat at Derby by bringing Tony Popovic back into the side and pushing Hall out to right-back, with Boyce moving to left back.

It did not matter to Watford, whose workmanlike approach to this season has found them rewards and it was this no nonsense approach that unsettled us and with only a couple of chances in the first half to speak of.

So when on 28 minutes, Gavin Mahon threaded the ball past 3 static defenders to leave Marlon King with only Gabor Kiraly to beat, and he rounded Kiraly to roll the ball into the empty net.

To be honest, we were awful in the first half and we only had a brief chance on the half hour when Morrison had a shot saved by Foster and despite McAnuff crossing the ball back into the area, De Merit cleared and the chance was gone. Boos rang out at half time as we trudged off, looking nothing like a top 5 outfit.

Yet whatever Dowie said at halftime must have worked as we came out a different side. Yet the game plan changed 5 minutes in as AJ, chasing a long ball collided with Foster and fell awkwardly. What looked like an almost innocuous challenge from Block B, resulted in a 5 minute delay while he was stretchered off and Freedman replaced him. Things were looking bleak.

Yet within 10 minutes of the substitution, we were back on level terms. De Merit upended McAnuff in the box and referee Armstrong pointed to the spot.

If it was AJ who had been challenged, it wouldn’t have been given but the responsibility fell to Freedman to convert in his absence and although Foster saved the initial kick, the ball came straight back to Doogie who finished from 6 yards.

McAnuff was not finished for the evening and his mesmerising runs were giving Lloyd Doyley a torrid time and we won a succession of corners and it was from a set piece, that we scored on the hour mark. A long throw from Hall into the penalty box was met by Jordan Stewart whose back header looped over Foster to give us the lead.

Watford were now on the back foot and McAnuff and Hughes were causing sufficient problems that most of the 2nd half was being played in their half. Marlon King did have a half chance when he broke through the defence but despite getting the ball past Kiraly, Ward was on hand to clear.

With time running down, Tom Soares broke down the right and crossed for Morrison and De Merit, whose evening of misery was now complete could only steer the ball past Foster to put the result beyond all doubt.

At the final whistle, the once jubilant Watford fans had all but departed and we were left to celebrate a win which reduces the gap on 2nd place to 8 points, until Saturday afternoon.

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