Palace 1-0 Villa
Jason Puncheon's sixth goal of the season was enough to send Crystal Palace up to twelfth place in the Premier League and seal the double for Pulis' men over Aston Villa. A late world class save from Julian Speroni was needed to seal the win but there is no question that it was a deserved three points for the Eagles. The win maintained Palace's seven point lead over the dreaded 18th position in a weekend of results that saw two of the bottom three win.
That is now three wins on the spin for the hosts and a fourth clean sheet in five.
The Puncheon goal came in the 76th minute as he held up a Yannick Bolasie cross in the middle of the box before turning and firing into the corner with the aid of the post but the home side could easily have been several goals to the good by this point.
"Speroni enhanced his claim for a World Cup spot."
Bolasie, a constant menace down whichever flank he decided to roam, had earlier hit the outside of the post with a shot from range and Cameron Jerome somehow managed to hit the crossbar from two yards out with the goal at his mercy. Palace would hit the woodwork again through the goal scorer before Speroni enhanced his claim for a World Cup spot with Argentina with his stoppage time save from Andreas Weimann.
Manager of the Season?
Tony Pulis is playing down his chances in the press but as the Selhurst Park faithful sang his name yesterday I pondered whether there is anyone more deserving of the accolade and I came up empty.
His only real competition can be big spending Steve Bruce for taking Hull to the FA Cup Semi Final and Premier League survival or Brendan "I've got Suarez" Rodgers, should Liverpool win the title. However, I do not think that those, admittedly respectable, achievements can stack up against what Pulis has achieved since replacing Ian Holloway.
"A measly four points."
When the baseball cap wearing gaffer took over we sat at the foot of the table with a measly four points and were in with a shout of taking the unwelcome record from Derby County for the least points ever gained in a Premier League season.
22 games later we have racked up a further 33 points, winning 10 times and keeping 10 clean sheets! Over the same period of time only Chelsea and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals than the 18 that have found their way past Julian Speroni and only Chelsea have kept more clean sheets. All this with a defence that includes Damien Delaney at centre back... rewind to the summer and you will not be able to find me one single Palace fan who suggested that he was good enough for the top flight.
At a 1.5 points per game average had Pulis been in charge since the start of the season and maintained that record then Palace would be sitting pretty in 8th place, just above England B (Southampton), who somehow conspired to lose against Cardiff this weekend!!
"Manager of the Season award?"
With each passing week Gary Linekar, on Match of the Day, heaps more and more praise on the Palace boss and is making it clear where he believes that the Manager of the Season award should go whilst almost disappointedly saying that it is likely to go to the boss of the eventual Champions. On only three occasions since the Premier League started has a non title winning manager claimed the award. George Burley in 2001, Harry Redknapp in 2010 and Alan Pardew in 2012. Lets hope a third Palace connection is added to that list next month... unless of course he is on a massive bonus should he win it then a commendable second place finish will do.
Ledley and Jedinak
Kagisho Dikgacoi was forced out of the game early and as a result we got to see Ledley and Jedinak play alongside each other in central midfield and boy did I like what I saw!
"Ledley on the other hand can pass."
Jedinak had his best game in weeks as he could concentrate on doing what he does best, destroying the oppositions game plan by getting in and about them. With KG at his side he often looks like he is trying to do too much and end up trying to spray passes that he just does not have in his locker. Ledley on the other hand can pass and, without checking the stats, must have boasted one of our highest pass completed percentages of the season.
This is not a dig at KG. We often miss him when he is absent and I believe that he has a role to play away from home. At Selhurst, however, I want to see us try and win games and playing Ledley, Jedinak and Chamakh as the middle three gives us every opportunity to do this.
I joked after the game that Puncheon is making a last gasp run at the plane to Brazil in the summer and had people in the pub actually looking up English players that have scored more goals this season from midfield. To be fair the list was pretty short but I would probably fall off whatever I was sitting on should he even be mentioned in the same sentence as the England national team. That being said, should he score another 3 or 4 this season...
It is of Speroni that I speak here. I wrote after the Chelsea game that it would "be criminal in my mind" should he not be included in the Argentina squad in the summer and with each passing game this claim is only enforced.
"Display after display in one of the best leagues in the world."
If places in squads were awarded to 'nice guys' then Julian would be a shoe in for the Argentina squad. This is not the case, however, and in the past when he was plying his trade in the Championship this was his only real chance of breaking into his national team. We all knew he was worthy of a call up but the Championship is the Championship. Now with display after display in one of the best leagues in the world he just cannot be ignored, can he?
His shot stopping has never been up for debate, it is amazing. His stop from Weimann yesterday only added to a long list of world class stops in his career. What Speroni has added this season is command. Never have I seen him so vocal and Pulis can only be impressed with the way that the Argentinean has adapted to cater for the needs of the manager.
One thing that has stuck with me this season is David James on BT Sport suggesting that Palace were going down because Julian Speroni "doesn't make match winning saves". Care to re-evaluate your opinion, David?
Goalkeepers in the last Argentina squad:
Sergio Romero (Monaco), Marano Andujar (Catania, loan), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).
Catania are BOTTOM of the Serie A... I see an opening!!
Earlier in the season I suggested that Jerome "couldn't finish a w**k" but I am going to stick up for him here. Yes he was two yards out and yes it was an open goal, however, it was not an easy chance by any means.
Paul Ince and Robbie Fowler had a mini argument about it on Match of the Day and I found myself agreeing with Paul Ince, somewhat incredulously. Robbie Fowler called it a "sitter" and Ince replied "for Robbie Fowler."
"He would basically be Drogba.
The ball bounced right in front of Jerome and to cushion that shot and keep it down is elite level finishing. It reminded me of Kevin Phillips at Watford last season where the outcome was of course very different. However, if Jerome could finish like Kevin Phillips then he would basically be Drogba and would not be playing for us.
Whilst goals would be nice from Jerome, his all around game has been key to us picking up results this season and I would love to see us sign him permanently in the summer.
What a joke. "I don't watch much football and even I could tell that the ref was rubbish" said Ed Petrie at the end of the game.
The award of the penalty was embarrassing! He looked to his linesman and the linesman said "no". He then awards the penalty and then re-consults his linesman where, unsurprisingly and correctly, the answer was still "no". Why did he have to be told twice?
Do us proud at the World Cup, Howard.
Player of the Year Watch
Last season was a three horse race. Zaha, Murray and Jedinak were the front runners with the Australian claiming the award at the underwhelming Fairfield Halls ceremony (I cannot wait to get this event back on the pitch!).
This season looks set have four main contenders. Speroni added to his late charge with yet another clean sheet and Delaney in front of him was again a man mountain. Jedinak was imperious again in the middle of the park but could be let down by the distribution side of his game. Finally, Ward has been brilliantly all season but has been a little quiet in the past couple of weeks.
"As it stands I would have Joel Ward by a nose."
As it stands I would have Joel Ward by a nose over Speroni and Delaney.... that being said Palace fans voted Jonny Parr player of the year a couple of seasons back so anything could happen.
Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie
Take you pick from Mile Jedinak, Damien Delaney or Joe Ledley. All four were extremely impressive, however, I have gone for Yala. His directness constantly had Villa on the back foot and this directness eventually led to the goal.
All that Bolasie's season is missing now is a goal. He came within a whisker at 0-0 as his shot from range shaved the outside of the post. I can only imagine that if he does eventually score this season he will be far from "Karmmm" with his celebrations.
Solid describes it best. Match of the Day showed some great 'crowd porn' with the HF bouncing all over the place and at points it was very very noisy.
What is clear is that we need a song for Jason Puncheon.
Hats off to the Villa fans. They were very noisy, unfortunately it was during a minute silence so probably not the best time to show your 'credentials'. They then tried to compete for the first fifteen minutes of the match but faded with each 70 cross field ball that their team attempted that went into touch.
Up Next: Everton
After ruining Chelsea's season, could we possibly ruin Everton's? They limped to victory over Sunderland, courtesy of a fortuitous own goal, and we are in form. Stranger things have happened.
Come on you Palace!
***Thanks to everyone who welcomed me to Selhurst yesterday like I was some kind of hero. For those who follow on Twitter you would have seen that I came very close to missing the match due to a 4 hour flight delay when returning from New York. Instead of landing at 9.25am my plane was set to land at Heathrow at 1.25pm which would have made catching the game extremely unlikely. Instead game 168 in a row was achieved thanks to the Virgin Atlantic pilot remembering that they once sponsored our shirts and thus did me a solid by flying from NY to London in 5 hours 20 minutes (note that I had no dialogue with the pilot, this is just me imagining what happened after I complained a lot at the desk for not moving me onto another flight.)***