Bolton 0-1 Palace
Freedman tore up the record books yet again as Palace won at Bolton for the first time ever in the league thanks to another Glenn Murray penalty.
Wilfried Zaha was a constant menace down the flanks and eventually got his reward as Zat Knight hung out a leg in the penalty area and felled his tormentor, allowing Murray to slot home his sixth goal of the season, his third from twelve yards.
Thirteen points from a possible fifteen is not a bad return for any team, in any league, at any level. After losing three league games in a row and shipping four goals against League One opposition in the League Cup (what a COCUP) we are now seeing fans who were calling for Freedman’s head talking about promotion!
Before I go any further, I would like to take a moment to reflect on that horrible Tuesday night in Preston, which saw us lose 4-1.
As Bolton is not deemed to be an important enough place to have a direct train from London, the journey back saw a stop off in Preston. As I stood outside the station entrance, can of Strongbow in hand (classy, I know), a huge grin spread across my face. This was not because I was thinking about the inevitable Owen Coyle rant on the Football League Show about how it wasn’t a penalty, this grin was formed out of the way that football never fails to throw up these sort of moments, on and off the field. Just a few short weeks ago we go stuffed here and it was all doom and gloom, yet now we have just turned over a considerably better team than Preston and are now just one win off top spot in the Championship. It was like poetry in motion.
Now, what of the game? Many have talked about how this was the worst performance during this unbeaten run. More evidence that Palace fans will look for the negatives in even the greatest of positives. Did we witness the free flowing football that we are starting to become accustomed too? No. Should this be a concern? Fuck no! The fact that we did not experience the free flowing football yet still picked up the three points is a massive positive. Let me explain.
Bolton are long ball merchants. The fact that the crowd let off their biggest noise, if not their only noise, of the day when the ginger bloke in goal decided to roll the ball out to the right back instead of punting it long towards the head of Kevin Davies, says all you need to know about how the Bolton fans feel about the hoof-ball game they are forced to watch. What have we struggled against all season long? The long high ball.
Now factor in the strong winds to the constant high barrage, and it was constant as Bolton didn’t even pretend that they wanted to play a five yard pass, and we are left with, on paper at least, a very difficult afternoon. I am sure that I am not the only person that was shitting themselves when thinking about what Kevin Davies was going to do against our backline after watching what Helguson did to it last Saturday.
But, the ninety minutes played out and not once did we look like conceding a goal. This, more than the free flowing football, shows that we are a very good team.
The type of football we have been playing in recent weeks would tear some Premier League teams apart, however, we have to be realistic and understand that we cannot produce that week in week out. What we have learned from this win is that (to use the “but could he do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke” analogy) we know that we can do it on a cold and windy afternoon in Bolton.
Merely looking at the stats affirms that we “did it” on a cold and windy afternoon in Bolton. More shots, more shots on target, more corners and more possession. This is against a team that were playing Premier League football last season, in their own backyard and are one of the favourites to go up. On another day, Murray’s header on the stroke of half time goes in, Williams gets on the end of a late low cross across the face of their goal and we walk away with a comfortable looking 3-0 win. Sure, “if” “but” and “maybe” can be said by all, but any Bolton fan will tell you that there were no “if’s” “but’s” or “maybe’s” for them yesterday as there were no chances of note that they could apply an “if” “but” or “maybe” too. “If” they had not punted the ball long all game then “maybe” they would have created a chance, “but” they didn’t – that is probably about the best they would be able to muster.
What I am getting at is that, despite not playing free flowing football, we were by far the superior team and this bodes well for the rest of the season. We can win dirty.
On the Holmesdale forums I was told that we have been very lucky to get as many penalties as we have this season and that these are likely to dry up. My argument was that with the type of players that we have, we are likely to win penalties all season long. Zaha, Bolasie, Williams and Moritz all run at players constantly and get fouled a lot. Players cannot get wise to them as they produce news skills that you haven’t seen before each and every game, meaning that they are either going to win penalties or beat the man in the area and have great chances to score.
Then, to my joy, Liam Rosenior on the Football League Show last night said exactly the same thing. He should be on there every week. Fuck Steve Claridge!
Remember the name and then despair if you see it on the back of a programme this season. Mr Eltringham “refereed” the match and was nothing short of a complete joke. In the opening ten minutes Kevin Davies lunged in two footed on Joel Ward and the referee, I shit you not, gave him a thumbs up! That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as Bolton players kicked Zaha and Bolasie all over the place and got away with it time and time again, before culminating in Jon Williams getting kneed in the back of his head and still he did not find enough faults to book the player. Jon Williams’ Mum and Dad were in the away end and they were livid at the unpunished treatment that was being dished out to their son.
A Bolton fan could read this and be surprised that I am slagging off a referee who, in their deluded eyes, gave us a soft penalty. Getting a simple decision right, and it was right as it was most certainly a penalty, is not my concern. My concern is for the safety of ours players and his decision to let the Kevin Davies lung go unpunished yesterday was a disgrace and put our quick wingers in danger of a serious injury.
On another day Joel Ward is in hospital with a broken leg today and Williams is in the bed next to him with serious concussion. Our players need to be protected by the referee’s, as players are protected in the Premier League, or we are going to see a promising career ended by a horror tackle.
So, well done Geoff, you win “worst referee of the season so far” award.
Man of the Match: Owen Garvan
Again, I could very easily have gone for Mile Jedinak. The man is just a colossus in the middle of the park and is going to be Player of the Season if he stays fit.
Zaha also deserves a mention here as he was practically unplayable yet again. People moan that he doesn’t get his head up enough and thus misses the obvious pass at times. Newsflash people, the moment that he starts to get his head up and pick the pass is the moment that a big Premier League club decides that he is ready for a move. So, please excuse me if I don’t mind him missing the obvious pass over and over again until January has come and gone.
One last mention before we get to the man of the match, and this is for Damien Delany. Any time Bolton looked like they might cause a problem yesterday he stepped in and shut it down. One interception on the edge of our six yard box stands out in my mind. He has done enough in the last five games to show that we must offer him a longer term deal.
Now to the man himself, Owen Garvan. At the top of the three man midfield again, Garvan can do exactly what Zaha cannot and that is pick passes for fun. Throw in his new found physical presence and you have a player who is now starting to boss games. It doesn’t even appear to make a difference if teams close him down quickly. Whether he is under pressure or not, he still picks the pass and executes it faultlessly time after time.
I hate to say this but props to Gus Poyet. When he tried to sign him last season a lot of people were saying that they would have been happy to see him leave. Fast forward a year and I am talking about him bossing games. For Gus Poyet to realise this potential after an indifferent career to that point, is pretty impressive.
But as Amy Winehouse once sang... “They tried to make him go to Brighton, he said No, No, No.”
A very very strange atmosphere. At points we were our usual superb selves, but at other points it was oddly quiet. Maybe it was because the stewards threw a bloke out for holding up a flag before a ball was even kicked, maybe it was the cold or maybe it was because the home fans were so ridiculously silent. Hard to put a finger on it, however, it was certainly not the atmosphere that I would have expected from a fantastic away win.
This said, there was an epic moment when the police created a line, from the front of the stand to the back, up the stairs (How is it that a fan standing in the walkway is a health and safety hazard, but it is not when it is a policeman/woman is doing it?) and the HF, seamlessly, burst into a song; “We pay for your hats, we pay for your hats, what a waste of council tax, we pay for your hats.” Even the coppers had to laugh.
To Wolves away on Tuesday night. Going into the Nottingham Forest game people were talking about how difficult the next four games (Forest, Cardiff, Bolton, Wolves) was going to be. Four, yes four, points was said to be a decent return from these four games. With three games down and seven points in the bag it has not quite turned out how people expected.
Wolves will undoubtedly provide a huge test, however, so should have Forest, Cardiff and Bolton. The fact is we seem to be stopping teams from playing their game whilst imposing our game on them so who knows what could happen Tuesday night. A win and I am throwing a few more pounds on promotion.