Fulham 2-2 Palace
Brighton were dumped out the Play Off at the Semi Final stage for the second season after being thoroughly thumped by Derby County. Former Crystal Palace striker Chris Martin was on the score sheet again for the Rams as the third placed team cruised to a 4-1 victory.... Oooooops! Wrong game!
Crystal Palace finished the season with a 2-2 draw at already relegated Fulham. For once there was to be no last day dramatics with Crystal Palace involved and instead the accepted best fans in the country treated a glum Craven Cottage to an uprising party atmosphere.
Fulham tried to ruin the party with an equaliser with practically the last kick of the game. It was the fourth time this season, and the second time in this match, that Fulham had scored absolute stunners against the Eagles. After Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell had scored wonder strikers at Selhurst Park back in October, the Cottagers followed suit in this game with goals through Cauley Woodrow and Chris David.
"A day that belonged to Dwight Gayle"
Despite the nature of the late equaliser it did not take the gloss off of the last game of the season for the away team, a day that belonged to Dwight Gayle. The Palace record signing earned a starting place after his late cameo against in the now infamous comeback against Liverpool last Monday and he did not disappoint. A goal in either half saw him take his tally to 7 in the league, 8 in all competitions, and claim the title of club top scorer for the season. An astounding statistic considering that he only started 8 league games all season.
Whilst the youngster looks to have a bright future ahead of him Tony Pulis' men can now sit back and admire their unlikely efforts before all of the hard work starts over again.
Wayne Hennessey Makes His Debut
Going into this match, Julian Speroni and Mile Jedinak had played every minute of every game this season. The Australian would fall just short as he was forced off with a second half injury whilst the Argentinean would not be given the opportunity as he watched from the bench... much to the outrage of many Palace fans.
"349 Crystal Palace appearances."
In the plain light of day this was a nothing game and without doubt the best time to give big Wayne his debut. However, this simple telling of the story hides all of the subplots. Julian Speroni, who now sits on 349 Crystal Palace appearances, is out of contract and there is every chance that this could have been his last game for the club that he loves. So what does this mean?
Would Pulis leave Speroni out if he knew it was to be his last ever game for Palace. In a word, yes. As football fans we all live in a fantasy world. We like to think that things will always work out for the best but so often this is not the case. Tony Pulis will do what Tony Pulis wants to do. There is no room for sentiment with him and thus Speroni's long service will not sway his decision if he feel's that he can better the team without him.
"Reigning Player of the Year."
This does not mean that Speroni has played his last game though. Pulis may very well feel that there is still life in the Argentinean yet and that he will still be our number one next season. After all he will be the reigning Player of the Year.
Now lets assume the worst and that Liverpool does prove to be his last ever game for the club. As much as I would hate it, going out in what is considered to be one of the greatest Premier League matches of all time would be a fantastic way to sign off.
We have to try and take the emotion out of this situation and trust Tony Pulis. "I will remember Julian Speroni long after I have forgotten who Tony Pulis is" said Andy Street of FYP. This may very well be true but as it stands Pulis is the man calling the shots and he has should have earned out trust after what he has helped us to achieve this season.
Man of the Match: Dwight Gayle
Now Dwight Gayle finishing as our top goalscorer might say more about our attacking exploits this season, well before the last 8 games at least, but lets forget that for the time being and say, fair play to the lad.
His tweet after the game suggested that he was a bit embarrassed about being the top goalscorer, but he shouldn't be. It is now all in the history books and when we look back in years to come we will simply see that our record signing was top goalscorer in his first season at the club.
"Does this make him a success and worth the price tag?"
Does this make him a success and worth the price tag? I am going to say yes, but not for his scoring achievements in relation to his sparse playing time. Early on it was Dwight Gayle's all around game that was suffering. His pace, movement and finishing was never in doubt but his ability to continually affect games was seriously lacking and his physical presence was minimal.
Pulis opted to play Jerome up front since he came in as his exceptional work rate and strength often upset defences and enabled to be a force on the counter attack. Gayle could not compete in this department.
"We have some striker on our hands."
What has been made abundantly clear in his last few performances is that he has learned how to play with his back to goal and looks to have bulked up a bit as well. He has no longer been getting brushed off the ball easily and once you add this to his pace, movement and finishing we have some striker on our hands.
The most sad thing about the season coming to an end is that I don't get to see him score another brace next weekend! Lets hope that this season is just the start of great things to come from Dwighty.
Phenomenal. Despite the Fulham stewards trying to ruin the party at every turn. I mean the stewards were so ridiculous they actually confiscated my inflatable boombox which was broken.
"Is that a bag?"
"No, its a broken inflatable."
"Oh, I am taking that then."
"What?! Its broken and I want to send it back to Amazon for a refund!"
He then snatched it out of my hand an stormed off with the swagger of a bully in the school playground that has just stolen Panini stickers from a kid half of his size. Embarrassing!
We were all to have our fun with the stewards though as they continued to cause a nuisance all day, not knowing how to handle a bunch of fans that were interested only in creating the best atmosphere that Craven Cottage has probably ever seen.
With the stewards constantly encroaching into the stands to attempt to confiscate inflatables the Palace fans took to signing "We're going on the pitch!" With panic in their eyes the stewards retreated to the front to stop an invasion that was never going to happen.
"Fulham fans looked on with admiring eyes."
As we run through our extensive playlist of songs that Fulham fans looked on with admiring eyes before looking completely baffled as we celebrated their first goal along with them, making more noise than them to boot, before bursting into we love you and deafening out their efforts to get behind their team. If they didn't believe our hype before the game, they certainly do now!
The confusion did not stop there for the home fans. "COME ON DERBY!" roared the Palace faithful in the final ten minutes. And "come on" they did!
From the boat along the Thames up to Craven Cottage to the final drink after the game, it was a perfect way to end what has been a perfect season for our beloved red 'n' blue army.