What might Crystal Palace have achieved this season with Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney – or even one of them?
Deeney’s double here meant that Watford’s dynamic duo now have 24 goals between them. In contrast, when Emmanuel Adebayor headed a fine equaliser just before half-time, he became, extraordinarily, the first Palace striker to score from open play all season.
That goal encouraged the home side to their best spell after a poor first half but even during that period any counter-attack that featured Ighalo and Deeney (below) with their sharp inter-passing threatened danger. The Watford captain, who had put his side ahead with a penalty, was foolishly left unmarked late on to secure only his team’s second win in nine games.
Palace might have equalised again right at the end, although it was significantly a midfielder, Yohan Cabaye, and a full-back, Joel Ward, who came close.
Alan Pardew’s team have now taken one point from seven matches and not won for nine, leaving the manager unsure whether they should be looking up the table – where Watford now sit in eighth place, five above them – or down. Since lying fifth at Christmas they have come down with the decorations.
Pardew spoke repeatedly about the balance of the team, which did not look right with Connor Wickham out wide on the left in the absence of injured trio Yannick Bolasie, Bakary Sako and Jason Puncheon.
Apart from taking long throws, the former Sunderland man’s only contribution was to cross for Adebayor to head powerfully home and he was replaced at the interval.
Heurelho Gomes, in Watford’s goal, was required to make only one save in that first half, from Cabaye’s low drive, and the fabled Selhurst atmosphere was absent on a damp, grey afternoon. The home crowd initially roused themselves only to complain about referee Bobby Madley’s decision to award a penalty because Mile Jedinak was holding Deeney, who stood up to convert from the spot.
The equaliser livened the place up and it is fair to assume that what Pardew politely called a “pep talk” had the same effect on his players.
Introducing Lee Chung-yong for Wickham worked well and in a much brighter 20-minute period, Gomes had to save well from Adebayor and Jordon Mutch.
There was a warning, however, when Nathan Ake forced Wayne Hennessey to save following another Deeney-Ighalo combination and eight minutes from the end Damien Delaney could only deflect away Ben Watson’s cross to Deeney, who added his ninth goal of the season to his partner’s 15.
There was still time for Cabaye to strike a post from inside the penalty area and for Ward to head just over the bar – as well as for Pape Souaré to receive a red card for a lunging two footed tackle.
Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Cabaye, Jedinak; Zaha, Mutch (Campbell, 71), Wickham (Lee, h-t); Adebayor.
Watford: (4-4-2) Gomes; Nyom, Prodl, Cathcart, Ake; Capoue (Suarez, 70), Watson, Amrabat (Abdi, 60), Behrami; Deeney, Ighalo.
Referee: Robert Madley
Man of the match: Deeney (Watford)
Match rating: 6/10.Reuse content