Watford's players left the Vicarage Road pitch to the sound of boos after limping to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.

The Hornets were comfortable for the majority of the match at Vicarage Road but rarely troubled Julian Speroni in the Palace goal.

And, as has been the case too often this season, Sean Dyche's side were punished on 66 minutes when Wilfried Zaha scored a stunning opener and the defeat was confirmed in injury time with a great strike by Jermaine Easter.

Watford made three changes to their starting XI, with Scott Loach returning and Carl Dickinson back from injury.

But it was the third change - new loan signing Michael Kightly - who made the biggest impact early on.

Kightly forced Julian Speroni to tip a curling free kick wide inside the opening two minutes and the on loan Wolverhampton Wanderers winger fired a half volley over from 25 yards less than 60 seconds later.

It was one of Palace's returning players, Nathaniel Clyne, who set up their first chance when the highly-rated full back's mazy run ended when his shot was blocked and then Glen Murray's effort was deflected for a corner.

Sean Scannell smashed a long-range free kick over but it was Watford who started the brighter.

And they were inches away from taking the lead when Kightly slipped a reverse pass into the feet of Joe Garner and the striker showed neat footwork before rattling the post from the edge of the area.

Loach had a comfortable opening half hour as Palace failed to test him. But Glen Murray, who headed over Peter Ramage's cross midway through the half, should have done better when Zaha picked him out on 33 minutes.

The winger's cross found Murray unmarked six yards out but he missed the ball with a wild swing and Loach held on to Scannell's tame effort with ease.

Palace enjoyed a positive spell around that time but Watford on the whole were the better side in the first half and Craig Forsyth forced Julian Speroni into another save following some neat passing on the left.

It was not a particularly entertaining spectacle and fans had to wait until the 54th minute for the next chance.

It was a decent opportunity though as after a spell in Palace's half, Dickinson picked out Eustace with a cross and his header was well saved by Speroni, Dickinson was next to have a go but his effort was a little like Watford's performance – flat – and was never going to trouble Speroni.

The Hornets were comfortable defensively before Martin Taylor went off injured just before the hour mark. Which was emphasised when Jonathan Parr tried his luck from 45 yards.

But the visitors took the lead on 66 minutes when the ball was slipped into the left channel and Zaha's first-time strike flew into the far corner and past the diving Loach.

Watford made a change straight away with Mark Yeates replacing Craig Forsyth and the Irishman made an immediate impact as he sent a low drive narrowly wide of the post from outside the area.

The Hornets were fortunate not to be punished again though 15 minutes before the end when Murray beat Mariappa in the air and Zaha flashed an effort wide of the post.

Watford were spending plenty of time in Palace's half without creating anything of note, with the final ball often being poor or not contested.

In truth the Hornets did not look like scoring, although David Mirfin did head over a Kightly corner, and the defeat was confirmed in the first minute of injury time.

Substitute Easter picked the ball up from deep and curled a 25-yard strike into the top corner.

The Hornets limped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat and the final whistle was met with boos from sections of the home crowd.

Watford: Loach; Doyley, Mariappa, Taylor (Mirfin 57), Dickinson; Kightly, Eustace, Hogg, Forsyth (Yeates 67) Sordell (Iwelumo 73), Garner.

Subs not used: Gilmartin, Buaben.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ramage, McCarthy, Tunchew, Clyne; Wright, Dikgacoi (Jedinak 73); Zaha, Scannell, Parr (Gardner 80); Murray.

Subs not used: Price, Ambrose, Easter.

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Attendance: 12,559 (2,028).