Own goals earn Palace win
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Crystal Palace came from a goal down to defeat promotion rivals Watford 3-1.
Crystal Palace came from a goal down to defeat fellow Championship promotion challengers Watford 3-1 on Friday evening.
Despite Marlon King giving The Hornets a half-time lead, Palace substitute Dougie Freedman equalised soon after the restart and own goals from Watford's Jordan Stewart and Jay DeMerit meant the maximum points went to Iain Dowie's side.
On a barren-looking Selhurst Park pitch, it was The Hornets who created the better goalscoring chances in the opening 45 minutes.
Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly needed to be on his toes to save from Matthew Spring after he beat Michael Hughes to the Palace byline before striking a deflected shot at goal from a near-impossible angle.
At the other end, Ben Watson failed to test Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster with a free kick that hit the side-netting before Watson and Jobi McAnuff combined to set up Michael Hughes with an indirect set-piece, but his shot sailed over the Watford crossbar.
The visitors looked dangerous going forward and on-loan forward Chris Eagles should have done better with a close-range chance from Ashley Young's cross, but McAnuff did enough to put off the Manchester United player's shot.
Watford kept pressing and claimed the lead on the break, as Gavin Mahon's excellent through ball found King and he beat Palace's offside trap to run clear in on Kiraly and round the Hungarian keeper before finishing with aplomb.
The Eagles nearly restored parity seconds later, but Foster did well to make a diving save from Clinton Morrison's shot before the Republic of Ireland international missed the target after connecting with a neat Watson cross from the right moments later.
Andy Johnson endured a frustrating half and failed to trouble Foster with an overhead kick just before half time, but worse was to occur for the England striker.
Early in the second half, Johnson collided with the onrushing Foster outside the Watford penalty area in the chase for a loose ball, with the Palace striker suffering concussion and needing to be stretchered off for treatment.
Freedman replaced him as a result and it was from that point forward that Palace turned the match around, with the home side earning a penalty after DeMerit brought down McAnuff in the Watford box on 50 minutes.
Freedman stepped up to take the spot kick, which Foster initially saved, but the rebound fell to the Scot and he converted to make it 1-1.
Four minutes later, Palace took the lead in fortunate circumstances, as Stewart inadvertently headed Fitz Hall's throw into the Watford box past a statuesque Foster and into his own net for 2-1.
The two goals took the wind out of Watford's sails and Palace sealed an impressive comeback with another Watford own-goal in dying stages, as DeMerit deflected Tom Soares's low cross past Foster at the near post for 3-1.
The result is a blow to Watford's hopes of overtaking Sheffield United for the second automatic promotion place, while Palace move to within eight points of The Blades with Friday's win.