Crystal Palace's James McArthur, second left, and Watford's Nathaniel Chalobah, third right, exchange words alongside teammates after the final whistle of their English Premier League soccer match at Vicarage Road, Watford, England, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Tess Derry/PA via AP)

WATFORD – Struggling Watford snapped a string of three straight defeats with a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace in a scrappy Premier League clash at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Watford caretaker Hayden Mullins's final game in charge only highlighted the overall improvement required at the bottom club as new boss Nigel Pearson prepares them for a trip to leaders Liverpool next Saturday before Manchester United come calling.

In an ill-tempered first half of few clear chances, Palace had the opportunity to break the deadlock in the ninth minute when midfielder James McArthur fired a volley from close range but his effort failed to test Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster.

The hosts could have made Palace pay for that miss when winger Ismaila Sarr, who looked lively throughout on the right flank, met defender Kiko Femenia's cross to the near post but the 21-year-old was unable to direct his shot on target.

Watford started the second half more aggressively and went close when forward Gerard Deulofeu's shot from distance drifted inches away from goal in the 53rd minute. They could have stolen the points late on but for goalkeeper Vicente Guaita's heroics.

The result denied Palace a third consecutive league win but Roy Hodgson will be pleased with his defence for keeping another clean sheet – their third in as many matches – ahead of next weekend's home game against Brighton & Hove Albion.