Crystal Palace


Watford secured a spot in the Carabao Cup third round thanks to a late goal from the debuting Ashley Fletcher.

Fletcher popped up at the back post on 86 minutes to finish past Jack Butland in a game where very little separated the two sides.

Supporters enjoyed the first fixture under the lights of the new campaign, and although there wasn’t much action to speak of until the finish, a positive atmosphere buzzed around Vicarage Road throughout.

The front three of Fletcher, Joshua King and Cucho Hernandez interchanged effectively for some early chances, but opportunities to score were few and far between in the first-half.

Ben Foster was called into action for the first time on 13 minutes, saving Jean-Philippe Mateta’s low effort. Perhaps the best chance of a goal came five minutes later, when a lofted cross met the head of Mateta. The Frenchman looked certain to score but for William Troost-Ekong’s last-ditch header over the bar.

Danny Rose flew in to prevent Jordan Ayew’s shot from troubling Foster just before half-time, prompting loud cheers from the Rookery Stand behind him.

The visitors enjoyed most of the possession in the first 45 but weren’t able to make it count, as the teams went in goalless at the break.

It was Watford who had the first major chance of the second-half, as Troost-Ekong’s downward header called Jack Butland into action for the first time. The hosts’ attacking threat continued with substitute Emmanuel Dennis in the thick of the action. The Nigerian cleverly flicked the ball into Sema, but Fletcher’s eventual shot went wide.

As the game wore on and shots on goal became limited, a penalty shoot-out became more and more inevitable, but Fletcher had other ideas.

With four minutes left on the clock, Hernandez received the ball in familiar territory on the left side, just outside the 18-yard box. Rather than going for similar glory to the Premier League opening day, the Colombian opted to cross, and the debutant slid in to poke home from close range and break the deadlock.

Christian Benteke netted late on in the friendly between the two sides earlier this month, but this time Ben Foster caught his effort and prevented a dramatic late equaliser.


Watford: Foster (C); Ngakia (Femenia 61'), Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Rose; Louza, Etebo, Sema (Cleverley 75'); Fletcher, King (Dennis HT), Hernandez.

Subs not used: Elliot (GK), Cathcart, Baah, Alvarado.

Crystal Palace: Butland (GK); Ward (C), Tomkins (Mitchell 80'), Guehi, Andersen, Schlupp, Kouyate, Gallagher (McArthur 62'), Zaha, Mateta (Benteke 62'), Ayew.

Subs not used: Guaita (GK), Kelly, Riedewald, Rak-Sakyi.

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