Watford's need for a new striker was highlighted at Selhurst Park this afternoon as they were forced to settle for a point from a game in which they created enough chances to win comfortably.

Inspired by the excellent Tommy Smith, the Hornets looked the more cohesive and progressive side and provided their travelling fans with plenty of reason for optimism following a turbulent summer.

Watford played some inventive and eye-catching football in the Championship opener and all that missing was a killer instinct in front of goal.

Jon Harley thought he had marked his league debut with the winner that Watford merited on 66 minutes but the effort was chalked off for offside.

The first half ended goalless but both managers, particularly Boothroyd, will have wondered how.

Deploying a more subtle style, Watford dominated the shot count and only Julian Speroni, the Palace keeper, and some wayward finishing prevented them from walking down the tunnel with a deserved lead at the break.

With Jon Harley, Smith and Jobi McAnuff interchanging impressively in the space between the Palace midfield and defence, Watford created a string of chances and looked much more impressive than the lethargic, toothless outfit who had underwhelmed in pre-season.

The Hornets forced four corners by the 14th minute and McAnuff came within a whisker of marking his return to Selhurst Park with a goal. The winger threaded a shot through the legs of two defenders which was saved low by Speroni and then saw the Argentinian keeper produce a flying one-handed save to deny him from the other side just 60 seconds later.

McAnuff also sent Tamas Priskin sprinting clear of the Palace defence but the Hungarian was caught by the covering Patrick McCarthy who made an excellent saving challenge. Priskin did finally get a sight of goal just before half-time. Lurking down the right flank, he latched onto a raking clearance from Mart Poom, cleverly turned his man and forced another flying save from Speroni who prevented the ball nestling in the far left-hand corner.

Poom - recalled to the side for his first start since December - was not forced to make a save in the first period but Palace did cause him the occassional hairy moment.

A wonderful piece of skill to keep the ball in play from Victor Moses - who was otherwise well shackled by Lloyd Doyley - led to a sweeping move that resulted in the highly-rated forward firing across the face of the Watford goal on 20 minutes.

With Watford appealing for handball, Moses should have done better when presented with a clear sight on 37 minutes but he screwed his shot wide.

McCarthy also had a header cleared off the line while James Scowcroft could only direct a close-range header over the bar.

Chances were few and far between in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but there was certainly plenty to talk about on the hour mark when a good-natured game exploded into life.

The third clash between Priskin and Matt Lawrence in the space of ten minutes sparked a mass confrontation between both sets of players. Several security guards unncessarily entered the pitch to restore order and once things had died down, referee Andy Jones issued yellow cards to Lee Williamson, who had made a late tackle after the whistle had gone, and Shaun Derry who had shoved Jon Harley to the ground.

The incident sent the home crowd into a frenzy and Neil Warnock implored the Palace fans to get behind their team. However, the incident galvanised the Hornets and they went close three times in the space of five minutes.

Williamson clipped an effort onto the top of the bar and then saw a goalbound shot blocked, while Harley had a left-footed strike ruled out for offside.

The two sides cancelled each other out thereafter, leaving Boothroyd and Warnock in little doubt that they both need to scour the market for a new forward by the end of August.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Lawrence, McCarthy, Butterfield, Hill; Carle, Derry (c), Soares; Scannell (Ifil 55), Scowcroft, Moses (Andrews 86).

Subs: Forte, Fletcher, Andrews, Ertl.

Watford: Poom; Doyley, Bromby, DeMerit (c), Sadler; Williamson, Eustace, Harley; Smith, Priskin (Francis 88), McAnuff (Robinson 86).

Subs: Loach, Hoskins, Mariappa.

Ref: M Jones Att: 15,616 (Watford 1,84) Bookings: Lawrence (43), Williamson (60), Derry (60).