Palace 0-0 Stoke
"We needed to shit or get off the pot" was a tweet that I received after the game (@pafster), an apt analogy. A replay was the last thing that a promotion challenging team with a thin squad needs. That being said, I was so pleased with the performance, it is hard to be annoyed.
Holloway was very open at the end of the match; “I wanted to win or lose basically and I wasn’t bothered which as long as we had a good performance."
The boss got a good performance and there was no apparent gulf in class and if one asked an outsider which team plied their trade in the Premier League, they would hard pushed to say Stoke. We knocked the ball around, often on the ground, whilst Stoke’s only interest was to punt the ball long to the head of their tallest striker on the field. “We were pleased with the result” said Pulis after the match. Speaks volumes.
For only the second time this season the Eagles posted a zero on the scoreboard, however, scoring is not a concern of ours. It is at the other end where we worry and to keep a clean sheet against one of the most potent England goal scoring partnerships in history. Sure, Michael Owen is not even a shadow of the player that he was, however, he still possesses invaluable experience which should shine through at this level. The fact that it did not shine through perhaps suggests that we might be ready for promotion. Even more pleasing is that we dealt so well with the long ball, a style of play that has proved our Achilles heel this season. Delaney was back from suspension and in inspired form alongside the ever reliable Peter Ramage.
The story of the game is well reflected in the stats. 57% possession in favour of Palace and 13 shots to 7, also in favour of the home team. The boys in Red n Blue kept the ball well and created some good chances, however, the six combined shots on target pretty much explains the scoreline.
Our wastefulness in front of goal once again showed our lack of depth up front. If Glenn Murray played in this match we would have won. The fact that we managed 13 shots without Glenn shows that we had what it took to break them down. With the Championships top goal scorer prowling in the area, Stoke would have been dismissed and we would all be celebrating an “upset”. However, Murray will not always be available to play and Jermaine Easter just cannot cut it.
Easter will probably gain Cult Hero status in a few years for his goal against Millwall on New Year’s Eve 2011. I will always remember him for this goal but the fact is we have outgrown him and we need an upgrade. His pace is a myth, his finishing is inconsistent and one good game in every seven starts is just not good enough. Worst still, he is ineffectual off the bench which makes him merely a drain on the wage bill. A striker in the January sales please.
Holloway knows that Easter cannot play the role that Murray does. As a result our initial set up was very different to what we have come to expect and we came very close to catching Stoke out early on. Zaha and Bolasie were never more than ten feet away from each other and were very central in the opening ten minutes. This dragged the Stoke defence all over the place and we fashioned a great chance for Easter only for the keeper to foil him. However, with the only bit of Premier League class that they did show all afternoon, they quickly adapted and noticed that we left the wings wide open to attack and they started getting the ball wide often enough for use to have to revert back to our regular formation. Great management on both sides.
A little review of Stuart O’Keefe is also prevalent. With KG now in Africa for at least four weeks, it is time for O’Keefe to step up. He has already showed that he is more than capable of filling the boots of KG. One only has to look back to THAT win at Old Trafford to know this.
He produced a very solid performance against Stoke. Rustiness was apparent and he was arguably lucky to stay on the field as a second yellow was about to be shown to him before the ref realised that he had already booked him and decided to let it go. Aside, he still looks as comfortable as ever in the middle of the park (remember that we signed him as a winger!) and, fingers crossed, he will be able to aid our run at promotion during KG’s absence.
Ref Watch: Neil Swarbrick
Another below par performance from the referee.
Zaha was flattened by Shotton with a scandalous tackle yet the right back went completely unpunished. An argument could be made for a red card yet not even a yellow followed. Zaha then hobbled about for the rest of the afternoon leaving Palace hearts in their throats. Thankfully Holloway has said that he will be available for the next match.
Like many refs before him, he decided that every third time that Zaha/Bolasie went down he was going to allow play to go on. A clue to the ref is this. If Zaha/Bolaise have fallen over, they do not appeal. If there has been contact, they appeal. Maybe we should make a DVD for the refs to watch pre match showing this.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
Tony Pulis must have been watching Jedi’s performance from the sidelines and wondering how he could talk Holloway into letting the big Australian go. Mile bossed the midfield. This is not new. What is new is this was Mile proving that he can do it against Premier League opposition.
Header after header, tackle after tackle, interception after interception. I am not sure how much longer we can keep him a secret and am flabbergasted that no one has tried to buy him. Do not be surprised if Stoke inquire after this performance.
With Huddersfield beating Charlton our game against the Terriers will now be rearranged and will end up on a Tuesday night. Throw in the replay with Stoke this now means that this season has seen Tuesday night away games against:
Stoke: 346 mile round trip
Huddersfield: 396 mile round trip
Barnsley: 368 mile round trip
Hull: 444 mile round trip
1552 miles in total. 4 days annual leave.
It is so inconsiderate on fans.
I understand that Huddersfield and Stoke cannot be helped. However, travelling to these games is so much easier if we haven’t already travelled to Barnsley and Hull on Tuesday night this season.
Tuesday nights away should be as local as possible.