Palace 1-0 Norwich
At last! A moment of magic from Jason Puncheon lit up an otherwise drab affair at Selhurst Park to give Crystal Palace a first league win since December 19th. With this victory, Alan Pardew avoided levelling a single season Club record of 15 league games without a win and saw his team move ten points clear of the relegation zone with 6 games left to play.
Puncheon had the best chance to open the scoring in the first half when a Pape Souare cross found him on the edge of the six yard box. His effort was tame and blocked and trickled wide for a corner. From the resulting corner the ball dropped to Yohan Cabaye but his effort was headed away.
Norwich wanted a penalty when Matthew Jarvis went down under a “robust” challenge from Damien Delaney. Garth Crooks called it “GBH” on the BBC, but that is coming from a man that consistently puts strikers in defensive midfield in his team of the week, so I will not be placing too much stock in what he thinks. Delaney was strong and Jarvis was looking for it – but I can’t help but feel that a few weeks ago the referee would have pointed to the spot. Maybe our luck has turned.
Just after the hour Puncheon found Yannick Bolasie in the middle with a low cross, but the DR Congo International fired high over the crossbar and nervousness started to creep around Selhurst Park. They needn’t have worried.
Six minutes later Puncheon popped up on the right and did well to hold on to the ball before offloading to Scott Dann. Puncheon then ghosted inside and Joel Ward found him with a simple pass in between the lines and the number forty-two found himself on the edge of the box with the perfect opportunity to curl the ball into the far corner. The way he season has gone, there was a definite element of surprise when the ball found the far bottom corner and the crowd, along with Punch, went mental.
Ryan Bennett almost equalised a minute later when the Palace defence went to sleep for the only time in the match, but Wayne Hennessey was on hand to stretch away to his right and parry the ball away from goal. Pape Souare then put in a last ditch block to deny Robbie Brady and the much taunted Patrick Bamford, off the bench, made a hash of a good chance late on.
Palace had plenty of chances to put the game to bed on the break as the introduction of Wilfried Zaha caused all sorts of problems for the visitors, but the winger could not find a way past John Ruddy on two occasions.
Relief swept around Selhurst Park when Michael Oliver blew the final whistle and Alan Pardew probably felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders.
When Punch picked up his injury and it was revealed that he would be out for several games, I was relieved. I speculated that the time out would give him a chance to reset and hopefully enable him to rediscover the form that saw him dominate games in the second half of last season. Based on the last two matches, this is exactly what has happened.
On another day he could have easily had a hat-trick, if his right foot was less of a “swinger” as Danny Murphy called it on Match of the Day.
His reaction after the goal, breaking down into tears, displayed the relief that he felt in ending his 27 game goal drought and, I hope, how much the Club means to him. Well in, Jason.
It has to be said that he did make a solid save just after the Puncheon goal to keep the lead intact, but it was yet another game of nervousness, errors at key times and awful distribution. His performance resulted in sections of the stadium singing Julian Speroni’s name with others berating them for the singing.
Personally, I do not think that singing Speroni’s name is going to make Alan Pardew drop Hennessey. The Gaffer is stubborn and he clearly thinks that Hennessey is the right man to have in between the sticks and singing against him is only going to damage his, already fragile, confidence even further. We need to get behind him and leave the rest to blind hope – as I think that is all we have left.
Obviously it is already written that he will have an absolute blinder for Wales against England at the Euros.
Paul Nixon Tribute
It was 21 years to the day that Paul Nixon tragically lost his life before the 1995 FA Cup Semi Final against Manchester United. In the 21st minute of the match, Selhurst Park climbed to its collective feet to applaud as the Holmesdale Fanatics unfurled the banner pictured below. A lovely tribute for a lost Eagle.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
It will be unsurprising to most Palace fans that in a scrappy game, Mile Jedinak was by far and away the best player on the pitch. The Captain was able to simply do what he does best, break up play, win headers and tackle. Props to Damien Delaney who also had a superb game at the back.
Up Next: Everton
A potential FA Cup Final dress rehearsal at Selhurst Park. It is crazy to think that a win puts us up into twelfth place after being so bad for so long. This is definitely a season of what could have been in the League.
Come on you Palace!