It was an afternoon of frustration for battling Watford as they were held to a goalless stalemate by Crystal Palace.

With new head coach Nigel Pearson watching on from the directors' box, the Hornets had good organisation, defended well and had the bulk of the attacking play in the second match of Hayden Mullins’ interim tenure.

But as has so often been the case this season, much of their good work foundered in the attacking third, although Gerard Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr came the closest to snatching an all-important goal.

Watford made a bright start and forced a corner inside two minutes.

The Hornets enjoyed plenty of possession early on, but provided an example of why they are bottom in the ninth minute when they switched off and Palace almost went ahead.

Andros Townsend's cross deflected into James McArthur's path and, despite being in space, the former Scotland international volleyed wide when he should have done better.

Sarr had been a real positive for the hosts and he saw an effort deflect past the post two minutes later before he delivered a dangerous cross into the area.

Palace were able to survive and despite Watford winning a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions, Roy Hodgson's men defended strongly to ensure it was goalless after half an hour.

Tempers began to boil over as the first 45 came to a close with referee Martin Atkinson booking Abdoulaye Doucoure, Wilfried Zaha and Craig Cathcart in quick succession.

No goals were forthcoming before the break though, and it was a case of whether either side could produce the required quality to open the scoring in the second period.

Hodgson made a change and a surprise one during the interval, with Jairo Riedewald making his first appearance in the league since April 2018 when he replaced Jeffrey Schlupp.

It was the Hornets who again looked the most likely to make the breakthrough and Deulofeu curled wide from 25 yards in the 53rd minute.

Crucially Vicente Guaita was largely untroubled in the Palace goal aside from demonstrating his impeccable handling from several teasing Watford crosses.

Both Hodgson and opposite number Mullins sensed there was the potential to turn one point into three and Christian Benteke and Andre Gray were brought on, which acted as a catalyst for chances to finally occur.

In the space of four minutes, Jordan Ayew drilled over before Sarr headed off target and Gary Cahill then denied the Watford attacker with a superb tackle inside the area.

Guaita had to be alert to deny Gray and Sarr after the 90 minutes were up, but it ended goalless to leave the Hornets still firmly at the basement.

Watford: Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Doucoure (Chalobah 78), Capoue; Sarr, Deulofeu, Pereyra (Gray 77); Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Mariappa, Hughes, Success, Foulquier.

Crystal Palace: Guaita, Kelly, Tomkins, Cahill, Schlupp (Riedewald 46); Kouyate (McCarthy 83), Milivojevic, McArthur; Townsend (Benteke 72), Ayew, Zaha. Subs not used: Hennessey, Dann, Wickham, Camarasa.