Everton 2-3 Palace
Crystal Palace won an improbable fourth consecutive game in the Premier League as Everton were put to the sword just like Chelsea, Cardiff City and Aston Villa before them. With the win the magical 40 point mark has been reached and Tony Pulis finally admitted that his team are safe from the drop.
Jason Puncheon opened the scoring with his fourth goal in his last three games before Scott Dann opened his account for the Eagles to put the visitors into a 0-2 lead just after the break. Naismith pulled one back for the hosts an hour in only for Palace to restore their two goal cushion through Cameron Jerome's second goal of the season. Kevin Mirallas scored with four minutes left on the clock to ensure a nervy ending but even six minutes worth of stoppage time could not help Roberto Martinez's Champions League chaser salvage a draw.
"It's a remarkable achievement from the players" said Pulis on reaching 40 points. "Without their effort and their commitment we wouldn't have achieved this."
"Everton had only lost once at home all season."
What was equally remarkable was the win in itself. Everton had only lost once at home all season and that was due to an early red card for Tim Howard and only Liverpool have managed to score 3 goals at Goodison Park this season.
Pulis said that he nearly didn't take the Palace job when it was offered and that only Alex Ferguson and the Stoke chairman said that it was a good opportunity. 24 games later he is a front runner for Manager of the Season.
Should we be Surprised?
After the win against Chelsea I asked the same question and the answer is no. All day long I have had friends saying how they can't believe that we won and that it must have been a nice surprise. "Not really, I thought that we would win" was my response. Of course they laughed at me but I was being completely sincere.
"Against Everton at Selhurst Park we should have won."
Against Everton at Selhurst Park we should have won, comfortably. We created several chances yet failed to take them and they escaped, yes escaped, with a 0-0 draw. Now, however, we are taking our chances when they come along and with the game being at Everton it was clear that they would be coming at us a bit more than they did at Selhurst and would leave gaps in behind for us to exploit, which we did.
"The discipline of our team defending is such that it becomes near on impossible for the opposition to drag our players out of position."
"All of the pressure was in front of us" said Pulis after the match and this has been the problem for many of the big teams this season when they have played us since the arrival of Pulis. The discipline of our team defending is such that it becomes near on impossible for the opposition to drag our players out of position and thus open up the passing lanes that other teams offer them. This means that they are left with the option of giving the ball to a direct player, Barkley for example managed to break through once with a run but was thwarted by Speroni or putting in crosses from deeper positions than they would like, which led to their first goal.
Of course there is no accounting for bad luck and there was a lot of this in the deflection that created the second Everton goal.
"I believed that we would get a result."
I know that Everton had won 7 games in a row but there was a hint against Sunderland that their form might be running out and with the added pressure of fourth spot now weighing on their shoulders and with our scoring boots being firmly on I believed that we would get a result.
Call me crazy if you want, but we are a pretty decent team now and I fancy our chances against anyone and I will not be surprised if I am asking the same question again a week on Saturday when City come to town.
Manager of the Season
In my Aston Villa match report I talked about Steve Bruce and Brendan Rodgers (should Liverpool win the title) being Pulis' main competition for this accolade. Clearly I made an error here by not including Roberto Martinez.
"Pulis may well have narrowed the field of competition."
Before this match Everton were in a great position to claim fourth spot but have conceded the advantage back to Arsenal with this loss. If Everton finish fourth then Martinez will have to be considered for the award, however, with this victory Pulis may well have narrowed the field of competition.
Since the Villa report, Hull have won through to the FA Cup final so Steve Bruce is obviously in with a shout unless of course Hull implode in the league and end up going down.
Alas all of this will be in vain if Liverpool win the league as the title will certainly go to Rodgers then.
So, Puncheon scores again. His tally is now up to 7 for the season with 4 coming in his last 3 games. Again in the Villa report I asked what happens if Puncheon scores in every game from now to the end of the season? Does Hodgson have to consider him for the plane? It seems unlikely but it is will be hard to ignore him if he was to score goals against Liverpool and City after having scored at Goodison Park also.
Speroni only further added to his World Cup chances making three superb saves in this match. The one low down to his left from Lukaku was a smart save, the tip over from Osman was excellent and the save from Barkley with his feet was outstanding. Sure he conceded two goals but there was not much that he could do about either. Fingers are crossed for the Palace legend.
I was extremely pleased for Dann to get on the scoresheet. Since he arrived at the club we have conceded just 7 goals in 10 games and kept 5 clean sheets yet there has not been much talk about the effect that he has had on our back line so for him to get on the scoresheet means that he can finally receive some praise.
What was even better was that Dann's family, all LIverpool fans, were stood next to us at Goodison Park and went absolutely banana's when he found the net. Not a bad way to open your account, with a goal against the team you supported as a boys local rival.
Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie
Two games running for Yala. Puncheon was close with his goal and quite brilliant assist for Jerome's goal but there was just something a little bit extra in Bolasie's performance for me. He made Baines look distinctly average and absolutely destroyed him in the build up to the first goal, which is no mean feat, before whipping in the corner that Dann headed home.
He sealed it in injury time for me when he knocked the ball down the flank and sprinted 80 yards after the ball in attempt to just waste a few valuable seconds in the corner. His grin to the Palace fans at the end of this run showed that he is loving life in the Premier League and why not? He is now starting to look like he belongs and I am made up for him.
Another rocking night. 1800 Palace fans made the trip, not bad numbers considering the distance and the rescheduled nature of the fixture. Each and every one that turned up contributed to make our littler corner of Goodison Park the noisiest part of the stadium.
I was very disappointed with the Everton fans. The noise they made for the five minutes after they scored their first goal was deafening. I was very intimidating and it was clear that it lifted their team. Why they were not making this noise at 0-0 is beyond me.
Up Next: West Ham
A trip across London where we will attempt to equal the cord for our best run of wins in the Premier League. It will no doubt be tough but with the incentive of a top 10 finish on offer, why can this form not continue?
We are staying up!
Come on you Palace.