Mackay's men stunned by Palace resurgence

Watford 1 Crystal Palace 3
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The Independent Football

Not much has gone Crystal Palace's way of late but on a day when a consortium of local businessmen emerged as favourites to save the club, Paul Hart's team secured a victory that could prove vital in their attempt to avoid relegation from the Championship. Victory at Vicarage Road still left Palace third from bottom, but they are now just one point behind Watford, whose own slide into the mire has been gathering pace at an alarming rate.

Palace were on the brink of the play-offs only two months ago, but going into administration, along with the subsequent deduction of 10 points, has hit them hard. A consortium headed by Steve Parish, a businessman and Palace fan, has been named as the "preferred bidder" to buy the club, although the deal is dependent on the separate purchase of Selhurst Park.

Watford were looked comfortable in 11th place last month, but one win in 10 matches has plunged Malky Mackay's team into trouble.

Nevertheless, the home side dominated the first half hour, creating a succession of chances. A sweeping end-to-end move involving Lloyd Doyley and Heidar Helguson ended with Tom Cleverley smashing a shot against one upright before Henri Lansbury's diving header from a Cleverley corner rattled the other.

Palace, who had to re-organise when their captain Sean Derry limped off, had barely threatened when they scored after 31 minutes. Johannes Ertl crossed from the left and Stern John rose at the far post to score with a looping header over Scott Loach.

Hart's side, playing with renewed confidence, suddenly looked a threat every time they attacked and scored again after 51 minutes. Sean Scannell hit a post with a header from Darren Ambrose's cross and then reacted quicker than anyone to put home the rebound. Fifteen minutes later Neil Danns was on hand to drive a loose ball into the net after a Scannell shot was parried by Loach.

Watford looked dispirited but still had their chances. Cleverley hit the post again before Danny Graham scored from 10 yards in a frantic finale, which also saw Palace's Lee Hills sent off for a second bookable offence.

"We had enough chances to win two games but we have to be more clinical," Mackay said. Hart agreed that fortune had been on Palace's side but added: "Over the last few weeks we've earned a little bit of luck."

Watford (4-4-2): Loach, Mariappa, Taylor (Hoskins, 83), DeMerit, Doyley; Cleverley, Lansbury, Eustace, Cowie (Graham, 68); Helguson, Buckley. Substitutes not used: R Lee (gk), McGinn, Harley, Noble, Hodson.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Ertl, McCarthy, Davis, Hills; Scannell (Carle, 80), Danns, Derry (Lawrence, 21), Ambrose; John (N'Diaye, 90), Andrew. Substitutes not used: Mann (gk), A Lee, Comley, Zaha.

Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).