Malcolm Dawson writes….I have this view, which I trot out from time to time, that it’s far better to see your team concede in the opening minutes, be completely outplayed for the rest of the game then equalise just before the final whistle, than be a supporter of the other side. While one set of fans walk away from the game, relieved and overjoyed that they have gleaned something undeserved, their opposite numbers are left totally frustrated and disappointed – yet both teams have earned a point.
It is the way in which that point was gained, rather than the outcome of the game that determines one’s feelings. Last night was a combination package. At half time I was satisfied with how things were going. One vital Vito save apart we seemed to be comfortable. We played “alright” I thought.
The goal was a bit fortuitous. From my seat it looked as if it would have missed had it not been deflected but 1-0 up is a better position to be in than 1-0 down. Then we know what happened and we know who it had to be who put Palace into the lead. And the outcome looked bleak again. Pity the two lads who sit next to me and the lady and her granddaughter who sit just in front. Fabio Borini’ll teach them to leave with five minutes to play. His powerful strike and the subsequent efforts to get the winner provided the most exciting phase of the match for a home fan.
So did I leave feeling relief or disappointment? A bit of both I suppose but more the latter than the former. Chelski did us a favour but I’m sick of relying on other teams to get us out of trouble. It’s time we were doing it ourselves.
The January signings are a definite improvement on those who left. Watching the game in the stadium gives a different sense of perspective from what TV producers decide to show you and I thought Khazri had a good game. He was industrious and worked hard closing players down but as with the rest of the team too often his efforts took him into blind alleys. Kirchhoff looks quality, when he can maintain his work rate and N’Doye scored when Graham probably wouldn’t. But for all this improvement in quality we aren’t really getting enough return. We got out of jail against Liverpool and again last night. What did Pete Sixsmith think? Read on…..
CRYSTAL PALACE (H) MARCH 2016
One point gained or two points lost? Brilliant centre forward play from Connor Wickham or poor defending by Sunderland? Inspired substitution by Sam Allardyce or a last, lucky throw of the dice? As always you pays yer money and yer takes yer choice.
In the context of the defeat for Norwich, it’s a point gained. We have risen to the dizzy heights of 17th, (albeit on goal difference) and have kept an edgy Palace team on the fringe of the relegation struggle. Had we failed to take any points, we would have been stuck in the bottom three, with Newcastle and Swansea due to play tonight and with the possibility of seeing a gap open between the trapdoor and the relative safety of the scaffold on which we have sat for most of the season. Had we won, we would have been laughing toffee apples at those below us; a full three points above the Canaries and with the Magpies needing a win to go above and Swans needing not to lose by more than eleven goals. But it wasn’t to be.
The first half was a tight, tidy and essentially competent performance of the type that we are going to need if we are to avoid Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium come August. Not spectacular, but enough to send us in at half time a goal to the good. That the goal had a tinge of good fortune about it is neither here nor there; N’Doye chanced his arm and the hapless Scott Dann tried to kick it clear thus diverting the shot past the wrong footed Hennessey.
Cue warm applause at half time from the support in recognition of a job well done. Bolassie, who had destroyed us in April, was well contained and Zaha was as ineffective as he usually is – the ultimate show pony. Kone and O’Shea had rattled Wickham a couple of times rendering him a peripheral figure and our midfield looked good.
There was a nice balance there in the first half. Kirchhoff continued to do the simple things and to do them very well indeed. He set up some excellent triangles with Khazri and van Aanholt and never once looked hurried. Those seeing him for the first time were suitably impressed. Rodwell looked equally effective, supporting Defoe when required and tracking back when needed. Apart from a poor tackle on Cabaye, for which he was rightly booked, he hardly put a foot wrong and there was plenty to suggest that he will be in that role for the next few games.
So, plenty of positives as the half time oranges were shared out and the second half started well enough with us on the front foot and with Defoe trying to wriggle through the Palace back line. The old cliché of the next goal being the important one was never so true. Had we scored it, we would be looking down on our rivals and looking up at safety. But we didn’t and that was because of a fundamental change in the defences of both sides. Ours slackened off, theirs tightened up.
We didn’t help ourselves by pumping high balls up to Defoe, allowing Dann and Delaney (sounds like a 70s disco act) to head it clear with ease. We began to run out of ideas and Kirchhoff was once again feeling the effects of two games in quick succession.
After barely playing in Germany, he is getting plenty of time on the pitch in England. Having already lost O’Shea, his withdrawal meant that our two most composed players were sitting on the bench. Kaboul is no O’Shea, more of a Hetzke or a McPhail as he clears the ball without a great deal of thought and Cattermole is no Kirchhoff. The loss of these two allowed Palace and Wickham back into it.
He took his goals well, the first one being a good cross shot when he had wandered into space. But the second one was a poor one to concede. There were doubts that it was a corner, but when the ball landed in the middle, neither Kone or Kaboul picked him up and he clipped it in.
It looked desperate, and it was, as the confidence visibly drained from the players and the crowd got tetchy. Misplaced passes, some hairy balls across the back four and a lack of communication did nothing to help. Most were resigned to a crushing defeat and the Trek to the Exits started as Borini came on.
He has not had a great season. One good half against West Ham in September is a poor return from a player who has not been particularly fancied by either Advocaat or Allardyce. He came on for a concussed Cattermole and started to buzz on the right flank, linking up well with Yedlin but not looking like scoring. With the game going into added time, those on either side of me left for a warm car and a quick getaway. They know not what they missed. They can watch it on Look North, You Tube or Match of the Day, but they will not have that sense of experiencing 35,000 people thinking “Where the f*** did that come from” in unison. It was as spectacular a strike as the one that saw off Pardew’s team in October 2013 and it could be even more important at the end of the season.
Now we wait. We wait for results that will help us from Ashburton Grove and particularly from that cold, open stadium next to the Stoke-on-Trent municipal incinerator. Saturday/Sunday fell for us even though we did lose but we have to seize the initiative now and make sure that we can pick up wins in difficult situations.
We head for Southampton this weekend. Pete Horan and I are making our now annual sojourn to Salisbury, heading off on Thursday. We have a game at Hamble based Folland Sports on Thursday night in the Wessex League Premier Division, a day in Bath on Friday and then a short train ride to Southampton on Saturday. We should be in The Platform Tavern on Town Quay pre match. It would be nice to see friends old and new.
We hope to be celebrating in The Duke of York in Salisbury long into the night……………