Palace 4-2 Hull
Crystal Palace continued their fine form with yet another demolition of a promotion rival. After beating Middlesbrough 4-1 at Selhurst Park a couple of weeks ago the Eagles this time put Hull to the sword with another four goals.
Kevin Phillips rolled back the years to score an eight minute hat trick and Wilfried Zaha grabbed his sixth goal of the season, along with two more assists, as the Red ‘n’ Blue Army ripped through the Tigers at will.
A thirty-nine year old scored a hat-trick! There is some considerable debate as to whether or not he is the oldest player ever to score a hat-trick in English football. I will put my neck on the line and say that he must be the oldest in the top two divisions. Strange things happen in the lower leagues.
What there is no debate about is that Kevin Phillips became only the second player in the clubs history to score a hat-trick on his full debut. Only Peter Simpson has managed this feat in the past thus putting Super Kev on a very elite list in SE25.
Whilst he must share that accolade with Simpson, there is one record that is Kevin Phillips after his eight minute treble. The previous fastest hat-trick scored in the league by a Palace player was a certain Dougie Freedman. His eleven minute first half hat-trick against Grimsby was a record that stood for seventeen years. EXCATLY seventeen years to the day. Somewhat amazingly, the record that Phillips has taken was set on the 5th March 1996 on a Tuesday night at Selhurst Park. It’s a funny old game, football.
The first of his three came from the spot with virtually the last kick of the first half. Glenn Murray had already spurned an opportunity from the spot, seeing his penalty well saved by Stockdale after Joniesta was fouled in the area. A second, rather innocuous and awarded by the linesman, penalty was awarded for hand ball and the ball was thrown to Phillips this time. His spot kick was hit firm and to the left only for Stockdale to get a big hand on it. Thankfully the ball only deflected off his hand and across into the bottom right hand corner.
It was a key goal and the perfect time to score. After a half of total Palace domination, failing to break them down may have preyed on our minds a little bit. Instead we got the goal that our 70% possession deserved and took a slender lead into the break.
The second goal came after some great pressure high up the field paid off. Whilst the starting line up may have baffled some (starting two up top) it should have made sense to anyone who travelled to the away game at Hull. They love to build from the back, as do we, and the best way to disrupt their style of play is to get in and amongst their back three. Murray was unable to do this on his own up at the KC Stadium so it made sense to have two people doing it at Selhurst. When Phillips and Murray were joined in their pressing by Zaha. it often led to the Hull defence looking very nervy resulting in them giving possession back to Palace.
This time around the defender did not release the ball quick enough and a combination of Zaha and Murray dispossessed the City man giving Palace a three on one advantage. Zaha and Murray both left the ball for each other and for a second it looked like the chance may disappear, however, Zaha decided to take the ball on and slide the ball across the penalty area to an unmarked Phillips. His finish, despite completely miss-hitting the ball into the ground, was perfect as it completely wrong footed the keeper and bobbled back the way from which it came and found the far corner.
The third came with a little bit more luck for the veteran. Again Zaha was involved. Think about Zaha’s pass to Phillips for the fourth goal against Middlesbrough. This pass was almost a carbon copy as the movement of Phillips and the ever increasing vision of Zaha was just too good for City. Phillips then had time to face up and shoot only for his effort to take a slight deflection which sent the ball looping over the head of Stockdale and into the top corner. The crowd went mental and Palace fans were left scrambling for the record books to work out just where this rapid hat-trick stood up against one hundred and eight years of history.
Jay Simpson then pulled one back, perhaps repaying us for mistaking him for Jon Bostock a few years back, with a great looping header and with seventeen minutes to go Selhurst Park was getting a little nervy. As it turned out, we had no reason to worry.
Just four minutes later Zaha burst clear down the right and drove into the penalty area. With Murray loitering in the six yard box, Wilf gave Stockdale the eyes as if he was to cross only to clip the ball past him at the near post when he made a move towards the centre. Relief filled Selhurst Park and only a second half turn around at Vicarage Road, seeing Watford come from behind to beat Wednesday, was ruining our evening.
Hull were to have one last hurrah. Meyler scored a late consolation and a further effort moments later flashed across Speroni’s goal, however, it was far too little too late for City who dropped from second to third after this defeat.
In truth, the scoreline flattered the visitors. A missed penalty, two further fine saves from Stockdale, one from Dobbie and one from Zaha, and countless last ditch blocks saved Hull from being completely embarrassed. Much like our game versus Middlesbrough a couple of week’s back, if we had scored ten there could have been no complaints.
We are undoubtedly on the up whilst others around us are starting to falter. Hull have now lost two of their last three and shipped ten goals in the process. Before that they had only conceded ten goals in fourteen games. Perhaps signs that the wheels are coming off. Cardiff have only taken four points from the last twelve available drawing attention to their already consolidated reputation as chokers. Leicester have only taken five points from the last eighteen available and are in danger of completely falling away if that sort of form continues, not to mention that they still have to come to fortress Selhurst.
Only Watford are keeping the ball rolling of late yet there have been signs in the last couple of games that their form may be about to turn. Only a blind referee helped them out last night as a Watford player cleared the ball off the line with his hand which should have seen a red card and penalty awarded to Wednesday when they were already 1-0 up.
In comparison, we have taken thirteen points from the last eighteen available, a series of games that includes three games against other teams in the top six. That is promotion form if I have ever seen it and what was apparent after the game is that everyone is, in the words of Morpheus in the Matrix, “beginning to believe.” Worry less about the opposition and let them worry about us. Not one team in this division will want to play us whilst we should be happy to take on anyone. It’s a good position to be in.
Man of the Match: Kevin Phillips
I could not possibly give it to anyone else. I do not need to add anymore to what I have already said above. The man has been a revelation and looks set to be to us what Jason Roberts was to Reading last season; the final piece of the puzzle.
Special mentions have to go to Zaha, with a goal and two assists, and to Jonny Williams. There was the small matter of Manchester United vs Real Madrid going on in the north of England. Neither of these players would look out of place in that match. That may be a bold statement but I stand by it. Wilf will be playing in that type of fixture next season as we know. Williams is not far behind him. His footballing brain is just exceptional for one so young and his ability to ghost past players is uncanny. Hopefully Joniesta will be doing it for us at the top level instead of one of the big English clubs.
You’d think that it would get boring harking on about how amazing we are every week... trust me, it doesn’t! Undoubtedly song of the night goes to “We Love You” post Super Kev’s opener. As it was the last kick of the first half the song saw the players off the field and carried on a short way into the half time break. The noise was deafening, everyone stayed to sing it and even the HF capo was shadow boxing the air in celebration of how amazing it sounded.
That was the best, however, there were other strong contenders! “Super Kevin Phillips” upon completion of his hat trick was spine tingling as was the “He’s Just Too Good For You” post Zaha’s strike... the less said about his dance the better.
There was also a little time for some banter as well. “Ollie, give us a wave” roared the Holmesdale and up went his little gloved hands, waving with a grin on his face. Seamlessly the Holmesdale changed “Ollie” to “Brucey” and the former disgraced Palace gaffer hung his head. Booo’s followed before the Palace fans left class behind and opted for “Brucey, you’re a c**t!” Kevin Day had said on the FYP Podcast that there was not much anger left towards Steve Bruce. I guess he was wrong!
George Boyd didn’t miss out either. “Oh Georgie Boyd, what have you done?” mocked the Palace fans shortly after the fourth as the supposed Palace fans ran his arse off to no avail.
Spirits are high, results are good and the team are looking incredible. Ten more games to go, lets spur them on to automatic promotion and maybe more!