Palace 4-1 Boro
Crystal Palace decimated fellow promotion chasers Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park. Four goals, including two more for Glenn Murray, flew past Steele in the Boro goal but it could have easily been double that. Wilfried Zaha, under the watchful gaze of England Manager Roy Hodgson, was completely unplayable assisting the first and last goals of the afternoon.
The game was all but over as early as the ninth minute as Zaha tormented two Boro defenders before his deflected cross presented Murray with his easiest chance of the season, tapping in from no more than a yard out.
The only shock of the day was that the second goal did not come until three minutes into the second half. Murray turned provider this time, nodding a corner down to Ramage who controlled, swivelled and finished like a centre forward. Rambo later tweeted that he once scored 65 goals in a season when playing youth football so with this in mind, perhaps his finish should not be considered that surprising.
The third goal, the best of the afternoon, is arguably Glenn Murray’s best goal of the season to date. KG battled well to win the ball whilst on the ground and Murray pounced on the loose ball, turned and belted a left footed strike from 25 yards into the top corner. It was Glenn’s fourth goal in a row with his left foot. It’s nice to see that he is giving other teams a chance by refusing to score with his right.
The slight blip came with ten minutes to go as Haroun rounded off a well worked Boro move despite a foul on Dobbie in the build up, however, Palace were to have the last laugh. Tenacious play from Butterfield in the middle of the park saw him find Zaha who threaded a beautiful pass through to the evergreen Kevin Phillips. A poor first touch made it look like the chance was gone, but a great second and an even better finish put the icing on the cake.
Obviously there is always going to be several positives to be taken from any 4-1 victory. I will focus on just a few. First, this quote from Ian Holloway; “the first half I was a bit disappointed... we didn’t move it well enough... they’ve been looking a lot better than that this week.” The last three minutes of the half aside, we absolutely destroyed Middlesbrough in the first period. The fact that we were doing that without getting out of first gear is pretty special. The shocked response of the interviewer showed that others share this opinion; “But you could have been 3-0 up at half time!” “Standards” replied Holloway.
Something Dougie Freedman said has stuck with me. “It’s how you start and end a season that is important.” The immediate start to the season was poor, however, the next 15 games were brilliant. Clearly our form then dipped but now, at the business end of the season, our form is starting to pick up again. If we can rediscover the form that we showed from game four to game nineteen on a consistent basis then I guarantee you that we will be celebrating automatic promotion come the end of the season. All of the teams above us have been going through good runs as we have been through a poor one. They haven’t been able to shake us off and we know better than any team how difficult it can be to keep these great runs going. The timing of our form, in relations to other teams, looks to be very favourable for us.
Second, the rub of the green has started to return. Our dip in form coincided with the rub of the green deserting us. Deflections dropped against us, the opposition keepers pulled of great saves, the ball hit the post instead of sneaking in. Since the second half of the Watford game things have started to fall a little more kindly for us. The first against the Hornets was scrappy but it fell to Ramage. In recent weeks it would have fallen to a Watford player. The same goes for our equaliser. The tackle on Zaha is excellent but ends up being the perfect through ball for Richards. The same occurred yesterday with our first goal as Zaha’s cross deflected very kindly for Murray. For our third KG just poked his foot at the ball and it falls perfectly for Murray again. Even the fourth goal took a slight deflection, carrying the ball away from Steele.
Over a forty-six game of the season you need the rub of the green if you want to be up there challenging. I am never going to be too proud to accept it. Before the Charlton game the Boro chance at the end of the first half, the one Ramage cleared off the line, goes in and all of a sudden the game is a very different one. If the rub of the green hangs around, again, we will be going up automatically.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
The third, and final, positive that I will look at is Zaha’s form since the Man Utd deal. He was by far and away my Man of the Match yesterday. There is a video of his individual highlights from this game doing the rounds. He wasted possession only three times in the whole match. His decision making was impeccable and better finishing from Murray could have seen him end the game with as many as four assists.
Middlesbrough full back Parnaby threw in the towel just before the hour. Zaha had just roasted him one too many times and the Boro defender went down, rather innocuously, and asked to be substituted. Somebody send that man a “He’s Just Too Good For You” t-shirt.
Once Wilf learns how to put in this type of performance on a consistent basis, he will become nothing short of a world beater. His potential is just scary and I really hope that he becomes what we all know that he can. Remember these last 14 games well Palace fans. We are enjoying a very special talent and in years to come when he is doing it at the very top of the game we will be able to proudly announce that he was, “Made in SE25.”
Need I tell you? It was like a big party in the second half as we continued to tear them to shreds on the field. A lot of attention was focused on Ramage after his goal.
The two lads who stand next to me, James and Dave, always latch onto who they consider to be our worst player and make them their favourite player. This mantle was owned by Dorman in recent seasons. This season it’s Peter Ramage. However, this has started to back fire on the grounds that he is having a superb season. “Ramage for England” chanted most of Block B as Hodgson’s face was put up on the big screen, followed by “There’s only 1 Peter Ramage!” The two of them are just beside themselves with joy.
My song of the match though goes to the chorus of “Scoring goals for Palace” in the aftermath of Murray’s second. I had Goosebumps all over as it echoed around the stadium and it even bought a smile to Murray’s usually dour looking face.
With just over a quarter of the season to go, everything is starting to fall into place. Our injured players are starting to return. The squad now consists of around 20 players who are all good enough to be competing at the top end of this division and in Phillips and Dobbie we have taken a bit of goal scoring pressure off of the shoulders of Glenn Murray. Once more, the £40 I have on Palace to go up at 25/1 is looking mighty fine.