Watford 0 Crystal Palace 0 <i>(Watford win 3-0 on agg.)</i>: Boothroyd sending-off mars landmark night for Watford

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The Independent Online

If the play-offs really are a lottery then at least Watford have one of the two tickets left. The Hertfordshire club, thanks to this comfortable draw, eased through to the final in Cardiff on 21 May, where they will play Leeds United for the ultimate prize: promotion to the Premiership.

However, they may be without their manager, Adrian Boothroyd, on the touchline, after his antics here sparked a mass brawl and he was dispatched to the stand with the possibility of a ban for the club's biggest game in seven years, when the Hornets were last promoted to the Premier League.

In what was an otherwise pedestrian game, with Watford keeping Palace at arm's length for most of it, Boothroyd suddenly decided to become a more active participant.

With an hour gone, and with Fitz Hall legitimately chasing a ball that had gone out, the Watford manager blocked the player and then over-reacted when Hall tried to get the ball.

That duly sparked a brawl involving every player bar the Palace goalkeeper plus substitutes and staff, with punches being thrown. When things had calmed down, the referee sent Boothroyd to the stands. The referee confirmed that he sent Boothroyd off for "delaying the re-start".

Boothroyd said later that with hindsight he would have behaved differently, while his counterpart, Iain Dowie, also said that he wished it had not happened before continuing to try to downplay the event. Dowie, too, had become involved in the fracas, although television replays suggested he had been trying to stop the incident escalating.

To set up a re-match in Cardiff, the Eagles had to overturn the 3-0 deficit they suffered in the semi-final, first leg on Saturday.But instead they were contained in impressive style and Leeds will know they cannot underestimate Watford.

Palace's main threat emerged when Andrew Johnson, put on standby for the England squad on Monday, was put in on goal after 19 minutes. A neat lob evaded the retreating Watford centre-backs and Johnson's run bisected them, but Ben Foster was quickly off his line to avert danger.

Apart from that, Johnson did not appear to do anything to enhance his prospects for the World Cup and Palace's promotion hopes similarly disappeared.

Watford: (4-5-1) Foster; Doyley, DeMerit, Mackay, Stewart; Chambers (Henderson, 75), Mahon, Bangura, Spring, Young; King. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Eagles, McNamee, Mariappa.

Crystal Palace: (4-4-2) Kiraly; Boyce, Popovic (Reich, 68), Hall, Borrowdale; Soares, Hughes (Watson, h-t), Leigertwood, McAnuff; Johnson, Freedman (Macken, 58). Substitutes not used: Hudson, Andrews.

Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).

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