Troy Deeney’s ten-game wait to score his 100th goal for Watford is finally over after injury-hit Watford battled back to end Sam Allardyce’s hopes of making a winning start to his reign at Crystal Palace in a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road.

After a poor first-half display, the Hornets gradually improved after the break and the captain’s big moment came when his side were awarded a penalty after Damien Delaney was adjudged to have pulled back Sebastian Prodl following a corner.

The game had got off to an awful start for the Hornets, who lost Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami to injury inside the opening 15 minutes.

Matters were to get worse when Yohan Cabaye fired the visitors into a 26th-minute lead after he had been played onside by Younes Kaboul and the hosts really should have been two down at the break after Heurelho Gomes brought down Christian Benteke following a shocking back pass from Prodl.

But the hosts were to gain a reprieve as the former Liverpool striker’s dreadful spot-kick was saved by Gomes to leave the Hornets only one down at the break, although they had rarely threatened to get back on terms and Wayne Hennessey did not have a save to make in the first halof.

Walter Mazzarri made two changes from the side that lost 1-0 at Sunderland last time out, including making the big decision to drop Deeney to the bench. Camilo Zuniga was also demoted to a place among the substitutes as Adlene Guedioura and Janmaat returned to the starting line-up.

Allardyce also made two changes from the last starting line-up named by Alan Pardew, a 1-0 defeat against Chelsea. Joe Ledley and James McArthur both missed out completely and in came the fit-again Mathieu Flamini and Andros Townsend in an eye-catching attacking trio alongside Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha behind lone striker Christian Benteke.

Janmaat, who started on the right side of midfield in a 3-4-2-1 formation, had Zaha running at him inside the opening 20 seconds and was forced to concede a corner, but the Hornets were able to deal with that very early danger.

However, the Dutchman’s game was to come to a very early end after he went down with an injury inside three minutes and had to be replaced by Zuniga.

Zaha was soon causing more problems on the left, taking on Zuniga and Guedioura before he was felled by the latter on the very edge of the penalty area. Cabaye went for power from the resultant set piece and his delivery was deflected up and above. Another Palace corner followed after an under-pressure Gomes carried the ball in from the right behind his own goalline, but this time the Eagles averted any potential immediate threat by committing a foul.

Watford struggled to get out of their own half in the first ten minutes as the visitors looked to make the most of the ‘new manager effect’ early on, but as Townsend was dragging the first shot of the game wide the Hornets’ injury curse was striking again.

Valon Behrami was already clutching his left hamstring at this stage and when the ball went out of play it was evident he would also have to come off, meaning Deeney was involved quicker than he probably would have envisaged.

From this adversity though, Watford at least began to produce some passages of play in the Palace half and won their first two corners of the match after an attempted Nordin Amrabat cross and Odion Ighalo shot had been blocked out of play.

Having been on the back foot for a spell, Palace had a good opening in the 25th minute when Cabaye fired wide from outside the area after the ball had broken to him when Prodl halted Benteke’s charge with a somewhat fortuitous intervention.

But the home side were not to escape so lightly within a minute.

The visitors turned the ball over in midfield and Townsend played a blind-sided pass to Cabaye, who had darted into space on the right side of the 18-yard box and was played onside by Kaboul, and the Frenchman fired a shot across Gomes into the far corner to put Palace 1-0 up.

Cabaye curled another effort from outside the 18-yard area wide of the keeper’s right-hand post soon after as their opponents probed to try and get back into the game, but a lack of urgency and sometimes accuracy about their passing and a general lack of pace in the play in general meant any progress was limited.

And a bad half for Watford should have got decidedly worse in the 36th minute when a lack of communication and a shocking back pass from Prodl saw Benteke nip in, only to be taken out by Gomes on the left side of the 18-yard box.

A penalty was the only outcome but while Gomes deserved credit for reading Benteke’s thoughts and diving to his left, the striker’s effort from 12 yards was, in truth, very poor and the Hornets gained a reprieve as the keeper saved with relative ease.

Benteke had already been warned by Mark Clattenburg for his over-zealous approach at times and in the last minute of the first half the referee’s patience ran out when he booked the former Liverpool forward for hauling Jose Holebas to the ground.

Puncheon was soon to join his teammate in the book for a trip on Zuniga as five minutes of injury time were played out at the end of an opening half that had seen Hennessey very much untroubled.

The Hornets sought to make a positive start to the second half and had the opportunity to do better in the 49th minute when they were awarded a free-kick close to the byline, but Guedioura’s delivery ultimately served to be little more than catching practice on the stretch for the Palace keeper.

The visitors’ first attack of note after the break ended with Townsend curling a left-footed shot over before Holebas picked up his latest yellow card this season for flying into a challenge on Puncheon.

While the signs were a little more encouraging, the Hornets continued to struggle to create anything of note until the 58th minute when a hesitant Delaney was caught out by a long Prodl ball forward and Ighalo sensed his chance, but he was unable to get his left foot around the ball enough to find the target with his attempted finish.

Another moment of potential promise came and went in the 67th minute when Holebas played a deep free-kick towards the heart of the area, Prodl got up highest to head towards the left-hand post but two Palace defenders did enough to prevent Deeney getting on the end of it to try and keep the move alive.

Prodl was the next to take a set piece for the hosts, this time Deeney did get his head to the ball on the edge of the area to knock it down for Zuniga, but the substitute got under his first-time effort and fired over.

The game was continued to broadly go Watford’s way though, and in the 71st minute they got the break they needed and their captain’s big chance to reach a historic landmark finally arrived.

It arrived following the award of a corner and when Guedioura played in the ball from the left, Clattenburg immediately pointed to the spot when he saw Delaney pulling back Prodl.

After the Palace defender was booked, Deeney took his time and steadied himself before blasting the ball home to become the fifth Hornets player to reach a century of goals in all competitions for the club and end his ten-game wait to reach the milestone.

Allardyce brought on Jordan Mutch and Frazer Campbell for Townsend and Flamini respectively, but the momentum was now in the Hornets’ favour as the game entered the closing stages with Ighalo getting on the end of a Guedioura cross but Hennessey was not overly troubled by his flicked header.

Mazzarri replaced a substitute with a substitute as Jerome Sinclair came on for Zuniga for the final six minutes of normal time. But there were hearts in Hornets’ mouths within two minutes when Zaha went down following a slight nudge from Miguel Britos in the Watford box. But, much to the delight of the home faithful, Clattenburg booked the Palace winger for simulation.

However, after Guedioura had tested Hennessey with a half-volley from the edge of the area, Britos got precisely the late Christmas ‘gift’ he didn’t want when he was booked for a foul on Zaha, taking him to five yellow cards for the season and ruling him out of the next game with Tottenham Hotspur.

Both sides continued to search for the winner in a frantic but scrappy finale, but ultimately a draw was a fair outcome over the 90 minutes, although proceedings ended in somewhat pantomime fashion with Harry the Hornet making a point of showing Zaha what he thought of his theatrics.

Watford: Gomes; Kaboul, Prodl, Britos; Janmaat (Zuniga 4, Sinclair 81))), Guedioura, Behrami, Holebas; Capoue, Behrami (Deeney 14); Ighalo. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Cathcart, Doucoure, Kabasele.

Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Flamini (Campbell 81), Cabaye, Townsend (Mutch 74), Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Chung-Yong, Fryers, Husin, Wan-Bissaka.

Bookings: Benteke for a foul on Holebas (45); Puncheon for a foul on Zuniga (45); Holebas for a foul on Puncheon (53); Delaney for a foul on Prodl (71); Zaha for simulation (87), Britos for a foul on Zaha (90).

Attendance: 20,304 (2,104 away fans).

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.