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January 26 2021 3.40pm

Player ratings: Watford v Palace

April 23 2018

Joel Ward

Joel Ward

'Respect the point' was the mantra at Vicarage Road as Crystal Palace edged further towards safety at Watford. Mike Scott scores the players.

The Eagles weathered the storm in the first half as they were bombarded by a Watford side who looked extremely physical and keen on totally ensuring their Premier League status.

Some excellent defending and some less than inspiring Hornets forward play meant they held on and, as Hodgson said after the game, were perhaps unlucky not to win it after a controversial penalty decision in the goalless draw.

Wayne Hennessey - 8

The Welshman is clearly a real confidence player and, as earlier in the season, seems to be going on a run of assured games. He made an excellent reactionary save to stop Joel Ward deflecting one into the net by diving down to his right and keeping hold of a ball that was travelling at speed. There were precious few shots on target otherwise for him to deal with. His game management, holding up play and helping players get into position, looked strong again.

Joel Ward - 5

Ward was put in an almost impossible position replacing Aaron Wan-Bissaka last week. If anything, it was even worse ahead of this game, after he made some high-profile mistakes against Brighton and yet found himself in the starting XI again. Hodgson, though, is old school and he keeps to a winning side. Ward really struggled to deal with Roberto Pereyra and was booked after 20 minutes with a really clumsy challenge. Having said that, Hodgson will answer by saying that the side kept a clean sheet. In parts, that might be in spite of Ward; but they kept one, nonetheless.

James Tomkins - 9

OK, there were only two Premier League games on Saturday, but Tomkins came out as player of the day on several sites. And he was a rock. The first half was absolutely one way traffic and yet, most of the time, it didnít look like Watford had much idea about how to score. Countless blocks, headers and clearances from Tomkins were on of the main reasons. To add to that, he had the only real chance for the visitors in the first half and nearly scored in the second. West Ham must be wondering why they sold him.

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Mamadou Sakho - 8

In the league, when Palace have had the pairing of Tomkins and Sakho, they havenít actually lost a game this season. They clearly have a great understanding, but also, they both have the same Ďnone shall passí mentality. Sakho was resolute and, other than being perhaps caught out by the ball that Stefano Okaka nearly scored from early on, he put in an almost faultless display and dealt with the Italian striker really well. His distribution was excellent too, looking more cool and composed than he has in recent games, when heís come under some criticism.

Patrick van Aanholt - 6

Van Aanholt has come out on Twitter and, refreshingly, vented his frustration at his own performance in the first half. Palace were very deep and, generally, that doesnít suit the Dutchman that much, but really he didnít do a great deal wrong. Most creative play was down Wardís side, but what he didnít do until after the break act as an outlet when Palace could break. After the half-time team talk that changed and he looked menacing on the ball.

Luka Milivojevic - 7

Milivojevic was absolutely faultless in front of the defence against Brighton on the break, but for the first 45 minutes against Watford, Palace lacked the fluidity needed to turn defence into attack. The Serbian was blocked out of the game well by a physical Watford side and having him kept isolated really showed how much the Eagles rely on him. As with most of the side, he enjoyed more freedom in the second half, as Palace played a few yards further up. He was unlucky not to score yet again with a fine free kick hitting the woodwork, too.

Yohan Cabaye - 6

The physical size and strength of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue in the middle for Watford was always going to make life difficult for the more diminutive Palace midfield, especially Cabaye, who had real trouble making an impact. Without making any subs, Hodgson had a word at half-time and tactics changes did the trick, because Cabaye had a big say in Palace looking to dominate for the second 45. It was his excellent corner that saw Tomkins hit the woodwork.

James McArthur - 6

Like Cabaye, McArthur struggled to make the kind of impact he did against Brighton. He has had a purple patch of form recently, but Watford did show (for the first half anyway) how to neutralise some of Palaceís midfield play. Even in the second half, he didnít find himself bursting through, although he looked to dominate on the ball alongside Milivojevic for the last half an hour or so and they ensured Watford offered little threat as the game progressed.

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 6

Loftus-Cheek will have been disappointed by how anonymous he looked for large periods of the game. Palace had real problems breaking out from the constant barrage of Watford attacks and it looked a lot like they had carried on playing as they did in the last 20 minutes or so against Brighton. For the Eagles to successfully play on the break in situations like this one, Loftus-Cheek will need to offer more hold-up play to help Townsend and Zaha. He did get more of the ball as the game progressed; he and Zaha caused ex-Palace defender Adrian Mariappa plenty of headaches.

Andros Townsend - 5

Itís easy for people to say that Townsend has a bad game when he isnít involved too heavily in creative play. In truth, for over half the game, no Palace player had a great deal of promising forward play, but Townsend was kept quiet even when the away side did begin to dominate. But what canít be underestimated is, yet again, how much Townsend does to ensure that the defenders and defensive midfield players are covered. So, it may have been one of his quietest games this season, but no one can accuse him of not putting in a shift.

Wilfried Zaha - 6

The only real talking point for most pundits and fans who arenít connected to Palace or Watford was Zaha and the drama over him being booked for simulation. Kevin Kilbane was roundly abused by Eagles fans for his harsh words on the Ivorian on Match of the Day, which he got very agitated about on Twitter. But, really, it was nothing we donít see most weeks. It was a penalty. But weíve all learnt to ignore all the drama and just come to expect it. It was frustrating, because Palace looked like they did deserve all three points, but, that aside, Zaha didnít have a great game. He had three or four excellent runs into the box, got a foul on the edge of the box and played right the way across the pitch at times, but he was kept fairly quiet. By his standards, he didnít have too much of an impact on the game and it was his own frustrations at this that caused him to get prickly, nothing else.

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