Walsall 0-3 Palace
Crystal Palace temporarily put their recent woes behind them with a resounding victory at the Banks Stadium in the Capital One Cup Second Round. A first half Dwight Gayle hattrick blew the home side away with the Eagles' record signings pace and directness proving too much for the League One opposition.
The former Peterborough man opened the scoring in the 7th minute, latching onto a quickly taken Adlene Guedioura free kick before smashing the ball home into the far bottom corner. The second came from a twenty five yard free kick, sliding the ball under the wall and into the corner.
The third goal was a thing of beauty. A Walsall cross was cleared by McCarthy and Glenn Murray expertly pulled the ball out of the air with a deft touch before skinning his man. Palace then embarked on a passing move that must have surpassed 20 passes before Thomas found Gayle one on one with a defending and charging into the area. A drop of the right shoulder and he is clear on his left side where he once more drills past Richard O'Donnell in the Walsall goal with ease.
The Palace fans jokingly sang "We're not sure's Red 'n' Blue Army" but there was nothing unsure about the away teams performance.
"As a group of people we really needed that... it will give everyone a lift" said Millen.
We fielded a much changed, but relatively strong, starting eleven from the one that lost to West Ham on Saturday and the changes bought about a change in shape. A more conventional 4-4-2 was employed.
Damien Delaney was one of only two survivors from Saturday's game and was joined at the back by Adrian Mariappa, Jerome Williams and Paddy McCarthy (remember him?) Meanwhile, in came Wayne Hennessey in between the sticks to replace Jules. The defence were rarely trouble in the first half with Hennessey only ever called upon via shots from range.
Jerome Thomas (remember him?) and Jonny Williams played down the flanks with Barry Bannan, the only other starter from Saturday, and Adlene Guedioura playing through the middle. With Bannan and Guedioura in the middle there was more of a willingness to pass the ball around with longer passes tending to be drilled cross field balls into space for the wingers to run onto.
Up top we had Glenn Murray and Dwight Gayle. More on those two shortly.
Brede Hangeland replaced Delaaney at half time, Jake Gray came on to make his debut with just under half an hour left and Owen Garvan (remember him?) also got a run out for 15 minutes.
What We Learned
Gayle and Murray are deadly together. Since they were paired together in a development squad game in which Gayle scored 5, all they have done is produce goals when they are up front together. 0-3 against Liverpool when they came on, 3-3 by the end of it. 2 goals against Fulham on the final day of last season and 3 more against Walsall to add to the tally. Surely they have to play?
Of course this is easier said than done as there is the Marouane Chamakh factor but if they keep providing goals then perhaps they deserve a chance from the start.
If there isn't room for the two of them from the start then at the very least Dwight Gayle must start at Newcastle on Saturday. 'He is a problem' as the kids say. He has pace, movement, strength and, more importantly now, confidence.
He never once looked like missing when given half an opportunity. Sure it was against weaker opposition but, one, you can only beat what is in front of you and, two, he managed to do it against Liverpool last season. Give him minutes and he will give you goals. Of this I have no doubt.
Jerome Thomas actually looked pretty handy. With a distinct lack of genuine competition for places down the flanks for Bolasie and Puncheon, Thomas put in a very solid performance that might have just got him noticed. His final ball can leave a lot to be desired, or more he has a constant desire to try and lob the goalkeeper regardless of his position, but he gets into dangerous positions and good things come from those.
Despite his long lay-off, Paddy hasn't completely lost it. Whilst there is no way anyone can take the MOTM award away from Gayle, McCarthy was a very admirable second. He never looked troubled at the back and in the second half looked far better than his partner Hangeland.
Hangeland still looked awful. I heard that there has been a bit of a mix up at Palace over Hangeland's actual position. Apparently, despite being right footed, he has never played on the right side of two centre backs and this was his excuse for being so bad against West Ham. Well, tonight he played 45 minutes on the left side of the two centre backs and he proceeded in getting nutmmeged and skinned by a League One centre forward and then was all at sea as yet another corner caused us issues, luckily the header flew the wrong side of the post. One more performance like this and I am with the Fulham fans. He is past it.
Wayne Hennessey's distribution is considerably better than Julian Speroni's. At one point he sprayed an eighty yard volleyed boot from his hands directly into the stride of Joniesta. It was phenomenal. This aside, he can kick it further and considerably more accurately than his Argentinean counterpart. He is certainly one up on Jules in that sense.
Man of the Match: Dwight Gayle
As if there could be any other. Took all three goals superbly and terrorised the poor Walsall back line. The one plus side of the potential/almost certain arrival of Neil Warnock is that he loves a quick striker and I would expect Gayle to thrive under Colin, should he come in. After all, he has now scored 5 in his last 2 starts, or 7 in has last 4 appearances, so why wouldn't he thrive?
"You're just a sh*t team from Poland" and "We're not sure's Red 'n' Blue Army" tells you that it was a night more for the banter than the more european style atmosphere that we are used to creating at Palace these days. Still, good value on a night when the opposition never really made it difficult for us.
Up Next: 3rd Round
A new ground please. MK 'Franchise' Dons orShrewsbury Town away. Them aside, anyone at home. Except Brighton. They never deserve to play us again.
Come on you Palace!