Watford 2-2 Palace
Crystal Palace fought back from two goals down to earn a point at fellow promotion chasers Watford. A slow start from the visitors saw the hosts race into a two goal lead with goals from Abdi and, the very impressive, Chalobah. These two goals slapped the Eagles out of their slumber and our domination eventually told, scoring two goals between seventy and eighty minutes for the second game running.
Ramage got Palace back into the game, toe poking home from close range after Almunia had denied Delaney. His desire to get onto the rebound was typical of his blood and guts performance and capped a very fine display from the centre back.
Then up stepped the man who many Palace fans moaned about when he signed. 39 year old Kevin Phillips ghosted into the area to expertly convert a great Jazz Richards cross. Out of respect for the team that discovered his talent there was no celebration from the veteran, however, the happiness was plain to see and his new found love for the game since signing for us shone through in his post match interview as he put doubt to whether or not he will be retiring come the end of the season.
Palace fans in attendance could have been forgiven for thinking that Watford were going to run us over after the first fifteen minutes. The Hornets carved through us with ease and both goals were just far too easy. The partnership between Deeney and Vydra is excellent and the pace of the latter had our defence at sixes and sevens, allowing advancing midfielder’s to take advantage.
What changed from around the twenty minute mark was the realisation that Watford’s threat down the flanks was negligible. As a result, when defending, Richards was able to tuck in and play almost as a sweeper, thus nullifying the pace of Vydra and basically rendering Watford all but useless in the final third. There was no plan B offered by Zola. A lack of a plan B is not something that Holloway suffers from.
We grew into the game in the last twenty-five minutes of the first half with plan A and this enabled us to still be in touch come the interval. At half time Holloway made a bold change. Williams replaced Marrow, who had been having a tremendous game, and from that point on Watford could not live with our attacking intent. Wave after wave of Palace attacks eventually told as Watford fell deeper and deeper. The introduction of Kevin Phillips, replacing Bolasie, then tilted the game in our favour as the movement in and around the box that Phillips added had the home team running around in circles. Plan B worked.
On paper Palace constantly attacking should have opened the door on the counter for Watford. The Hornets have been carving teams open in recent weeks on the break yet could not get any traction in this match. Some may suggest that Vydra was jaded after his run out for his country on Wednesday night, however, I think that it has more to do with what we did to stop them as opposed to what they did not do. As mentioned above, Richards defended a lot narrower than he would normally and Watford just did not have an answer to the lack of space this offered in central areas. Props have to go to Holloway and his team for noticing and employing this tactic.
Holloway deserves further credit for his work in the transfer window. Phillips has already helped us win four points where without him we would have most likely ended with none. Richards has already assisted two goals (although the pessimist will point out that he gave one away versus Watford) and Dobbie has added an extra dimension to our midfield.
Is Dobbie our new Darren Ambrose? Not the pale shadow of the man that eventually left the club but the Darren Ambrose who scored twenty goals in one season. Dobbie is always popping up in dangerous areas, he can shoot from range and he possesses a great delivery. All these attributes match those of the prolific Darren that we once new and will undoubtedly prove vital in our late season charge, especially when factoring in his recent promotion gaining exploits.
With four points from our last two games and with KG back and Jedinak set to return next week, things look like they are starting to pick up once more. If we can recapture our early season form just when our promotion rivals are starting to falter (Boro, Hull, Leicester and Burnley all losing today) then we are very much in with a shout of automatic promotion.
Holloway has come into some stick in recent weeks. On this very site Daniel Smith discussed the chances of Palace being a Leicester for Holloway as opposed to a Blackpool. What Ian has shown in the last couple of games is that he knows what his doing and we must keep the faith. Further, his passion and anger after the incidents at Huddersfield shows that his heart is in this job. Great things are coming. I can feel it.
Man of the Match: Jonny Williams
The secret is well and truly out. A performance like that on TV now means that everyone is aware of the talent that he has. Phillips waxed lyrical about him in his post match interview as the 2300 travelling Palace fans chanted his name in the background during their post match interview. On top of his great, game changing, performance the way that he handled the interview at the end of the game was extremely grown up and very professional. Only injuries will stop this boy going a long way in this game.
It is always special at Watford away. Watching the game back on TV upon getting home it bought a smile on my face listening to us sing for the full 90 minutes. Even when the goals went in, after the initial cheer from the home fans only the away contingent could be heard. Flash bombs and smoke bombs lighted up the way end, the drum kept the fans singing and all the home fans could do was sit and admire.
Sadly the fantastic atmosphere was tarnished by a fan throwing a seat that injured two other fans. We cannot moan about Brighton and Charlton fans ripping seats out of our away end and smashing up our toilets if we are going to behave the same way ourselves. Then to throw the seat ad hit your own fans with it? Really? Think before you act people.
Middlesbrough up next at Selhurst. Five defeats in a row for them For once we are playing a team at the right time, instead of playing teams who are in the middle of good runs/just changed their manager etc... Of course we cannot expect an easy game, but a win over them will open up a 8 point gap, all but confirming us a play-off place in my mind.