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Report: Crystal Palace 1 Watford 2

Nobody puts Troy Deeney in the corner (on the bench). Just when the script looked to be written for Emmanuel Adebayor to show the club were wrong to turn down his services, Watford’s main man showed there was no need to sign the Togo forward by netting a brace to take Watford to within a whisker of that crucial 40-point mark.

Deeney led a much-improved Watford from the front and turned in arguably his best performance of the season to end Watford’s poor run of form and put the Hornets back on track. The Watford striker’s seventh and eighth goals of the season came either side of an Adebayor header to secure the Hornets’ second win in nine league games. It also moved Deeney to outright fifth in the club’s all-time leading scorers. It was quite a way for Deeney to show you leave him out of the starting XI at your peril.

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Something had to change after Watford’s limp surrender at Spurs and it did. A change of shape and a full debut for Nordin Amrabat was the headline news but it was the restoration of Deeney to the starting XI that was the difference. Watford could’ve been out of sight by the break.

Mile Jedinak’s challenge on Deeney belonged at Twickenham rather than Selhurst Park and, after Roger Madley pointed to the spot, the Watford captain made no mistake in sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way with 16 minutes gone.

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Palace grew more and more frustrated by Watford’s high-pressing game and couldn’t get going. Odion Ighalo, Amrabat and Deeney were causing havoc. How Ighalo didn’t add to his 14-goal league tally in the first half only he will know. The Nigerian forward was denied by Hennessey at the near post by wildly lashing over a golden opportunity from six yards out.

And how Watford were made to pay for their wastefulness. Moments later, a long, hopeful cross into the box from Connor Wickham was guided expertly into the top corner by Adebayor. Out of nothing, Palace were level at half time. The inquest into just how Watford conceded the throw that led to the equaliser continued down the tunnel at the break. Fingers seemed to be pointed at Allan Nyom.

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After the break, Palace had the wind in their sails and Wilfried Zaha was released from his shackles. The lively winger swapped sides and bamboozled Nyom, giving the Cameroon international a torrid time. How the right-back wasn’t hooked was a mystery. It was Zaha who teed up Adebayor for what should have been his second but he couldn’t beat Gomes from point-blank range.

Palace were starting to click and Watford looked like they were tiring. Sanchez Flores sent on Almen Abdi and Mario Suarez in an attempt to take control of the midfield battle and it almost worked, Nathan Ake spurning a great chance to regain the lead when his lacklustre effort at the back post failed to test Hennessey.

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Then, with ten minutes to go, Deeney clinically put Watford back in the driving seat. The Watford captain lost his marker at the back post and drilled home his eighth goal of the season from a brilliant cross from Ben Watson. He is the man for the big occasion and scores just when his team need it.

Pape Souare made Watford’s job a little easier in the final exchanges after being dismissed for a late lunge on Behrami, the victim instead of the perpetrator for once. Deeney, on the other hand, has been the architect for much of the season but he showed he is still the chief executioner when it counts.

Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak, Cabaye, Mutch (Campbell 77), Zaha, Wickham (Lee 45), Adebayor. Subs not used: Speroni, Mariappa, Chamakh, Kelly, Boateng.

Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Prodl, Cathcart, Ake, Behrami, Watson, Capoue (Suarez 75), Amrabat (Abdi 65), Deeney, Ighalo. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Paredes, Guedioura, Anya, Holebas.