Terriers 0-1 Palace
In a season that has seen Palace, in the main, steer away from what we all refer to as “typical Palace”, last night’s loss at Huddersfield was an unwelcome return to old ways. Without a win in thirteen games and managerless, the Palace of recent would have put them to the sword. Unfortunately, the Palace of old had a nasty habit of providing the light at the end of the tunnel for useless teams and we were once more that light at the John Smith Stadium (other Bitter’s available).
With four ex Palace players appearing for Huddersfield on the night, it was inevitable that any disastrous result would involve one of them scoring. On the night it turned out to be James Vaughan. A breakaway saw him squeeze in between Ramage and Delaney and roll the ball past Speroni. At least he didn’t celebrate.
There has been considerable debate over whether this was our worst performance of the season. Three people, including myself, whom have been to every game have said yes with a couple of people, also going to every game, have said it wasn’t as bad as Preston. Bristol City and Preston away were awful, don’t get me wrong, however, we scored in both of those games and created good chances to score throughout the game but terrible defending let us down.
Three shots on target is a generous stat. Bolasie forced Smithies into a distant save from range and Smithies was only tested one other time and that was from a very firm header back to him from his own full back from close range. Bolasie and Butterfield both just missed the target from very long range and that was pretty much it for our efforts on goal.
Has our spark in front of goal gone? Have teams figured us out? Is Holloway the right man for the job? These are some of the question that I was asked last night. Let me try and answer them.
Have we been figured out? We are not playing the same style of football that we were under Freedman and at the start of the Holloway reign. A much more direct element has been added to our game, especially away from home. I think that we are struggling with this. When we got the ball down and passed it around last night, we carved open the Terriers with ease. Unfortunately, we just tried to hit the ball long far too often. It is no secret that when we are passing the ball around teams have to press us as high up the field as possible to try and stop us. However, teams cannot apply pressure for a full ninety minutes and in the end our passing game has paid dividends. The only reason that our passing game, only present in the first half, did not work last night is because the service from the full backs failed to provide the right cross. The positions were there several times but we failed to take advantage.
When Huddersfield took the lead, Holloway’s response was to sacrifice both full backs and switch to a 343 formation and from that point onwards we failed to create anything of note. The full backs were not there to overlap so Bolasie and Zaha were easily crowded out. The extra men that doubling up on our wingers usually use were then Wilbraham and Easter who do not possess the necessary pace to cause any worry for the home team. Basically this switch played directly into their hands and allowed them to see out the game. Saying this, many complained when Freedman didn’t go for it.
So, this brings us to the question ‘is Holloway the right man for the job?’ Before we get into this, it is poignant to ask the question; if not Holloway, then who? Before people want to start turning against him, remember that he would only be replaced by someone inferior.
Holloway wants to impose his style of play onto the team and there is nothing wrong with that. Clearly it is taking the team some time to adjust to what he wants leading to too many aimless looking balls as the players are not on the same wavelength, something that was not a problem under Dougie.
Holloway needs to add a few players to the team that can play the style he wants to play, making deadline day very important. If the right players do not come in and we continue to play this style of football then we could very well slip out of promotion contention, unless Zaha of Bolasie can work out how to do what Thomas Ince did for Ian at Blackpool. Holloway always has the option to go back to the style of football that we were playing earlier in the season, however, this is unlikely.
Finally, has the spark in front of goal gone? It was always going to be difficult for Murray to maintain his incredible early season form across forty six games. He has missed a few chances of late that he would have taken earlier in the season. Part of the problem here I believe harks back to our style of play. Murray has started to look a bit isolated. Last season proves that this does not get the best out of him. He is at his best picking the ball up in the hole with his back to goal, cycling the ball out to the midfielders and making runs into the box and getting onto the end of crosses. The more direct style relies on the wingers getting up alongside Murray and they are just not doing this.
I do not have all of the answers. If I did I would be a manager. What is clear the style that Holloway is trying to play, particularly away from home, is just not working and thus needs to be addressed very quickly or we could end up in a play-off lottery or worse.
I am afraid that is back. What a joke performance. Asides from missing the elbow from Alan Lee on Mile Jedinak that has left our skipper with a lump the size of a golf ball on his face, his reluctance to punish any attempt at blatant time wasting from the home team was embarrassing. At one point a Huddersfield player picked up the ball when we were awarded a free kick, ran fifteen yards with it and then threw it in the opposition direction to where the free kick was. The referee didn’t even talk to him.
Beckford then went down twice. The second time, which ultimately saw him substituted, he jumped up as quick as a flash to try and square up to a Palace player yet took a full minute to walk from the field. This was after spending at least three minutes on the floor across the two incidents. This is a total of four minutes alone... the exact amount of extra minute’s stoppage that was awarded. The fact that on top of this the physio’s came on to the field at least another five times in the half shows that four minutes is a joke.
His inability to control the game lead to a huge scuffle in the tunnel after the game and Ian Holloway leaving before doing the post match press conference, which will undoubtedly land the club in trouble. It all just capped off the most frustrating of evenings.
Man of the Match: Jacob Butterfield
Slim pickings really as far as Palace players are concerned. Jacob had our best effort of the game and displayed some great vision when he was afforded the ball by the wasteful Damien Delaney.
Unfortunately my actual man of the match was probably Neil Danns... told you it was a frustrating evening.
Interesting. Not particularly loud but there is clearly a division amongst the fans at the moment. Bizarrely a section of Palace fans berated other sections of fans for not singing “You’re only here for the Brighton” suggesting that they are just trying to collect stubs for the Brighton away game. Further they were singing about why they bother coming to games if they are not going to sing. The irony that they did not sing one song in support of the team yet only songs talking about how great they are and songs about prison and fighting seemed lost on them < Not the HF.
If we all just take a big step backwards and take on board that we are fifth in the league when we were the bookies favourites for relegation, we might start to realise that things are not that bad. In fact, things are great.
Charlton next. An easy three points.