Watford 0-1 Palace
Yohan Cabaye became the first player to score past Watford at Vicarage Road this season as Alan Pardew picked up his eleventh away win in fourteen away matches in charge of Crystal Palace, in all competitions.
The Cabaye penalty would have seemed all too familiar to Hornets’ fans. Wilfried Zaha was felled in the penalty area, in an almost identical position to where he was fouled in the Championship Play-Off Final back in 2013, and Cabaye smashed the penalty high to the keepers right, mirroring ‘Super’ Kevin Phillip’s strike - "It's just like Wembley again" sung the travelling support.
Jurado struck the bar for Watford in the second half and Wayne Hennessey, replacing the recently poor Alex McCarthy in the Palace goal, was forced into a smart save but in truth, Palace were comfortable and it was only a matter of time before the winner would come.
Brede Hangeland almost added a goal to his imperious performance but his head, after twelve minutes, was straight at Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal. Either side of the keeper and the ball would have found the net (and pocketed me £205 for 1st goal scorer at 40/1).
"Sako broke down the left and showed tremendous strength to hold of his marker before whipping in a low and early cross towards Gayle"
After Jurado had hit the woodwork, Dwight Gayle would do the same at the other end. Bakary Sako broke down the left and showed tremendous strength to hold of his marker before whipping in a low and early cross towards Gayle. Just as the hat-trick hero from midweek looked set to tap the ball home, Craig Cathcart stuck out a leg and managed to kick the ball into Gayle. The ball cannoned off the striker’s foot and off the woodwork and straight back into the arms of Gomes.
Zaha then entered the fray from the bench and the traffic was then one way.
Nyom had done a sterling job at right back for Watford, showing fantastic pace and strength throughout the match but he faced one dribble to many. Zaha committed the Cameroonian and Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot after using the divot in the pitch that was caused by the tackle to decide that it was just inside the box.
Gayle should have extended the lead after springing the offside trap late on but Pardew’s men would comfortably hang on to the three points as Watford’s direct style was easily negated by the superb Palace back line.
Palace move up to sixth place and top of the away points gained in 2015 table.
Alex McCarthy Dropped
After a heated debate on Holmesdale Radio last week in which I called for McCarthy to be rested, it would appear that Pardew listened to my reasoning and made the call… OK he obviously didn’t listen but I was glad to see that he identified the need to take McCarthy out of the firing line.
I think that McCarthy has all of the attributes to be our long term number one, however, after mistakes against Man City and Spurs, a mistake in this one could have seen the fans truly turn on him and nobody needs that early on in their Palace career – just ask Julian Speroni!
Hennessey did not have much to do on the day but did well to deny Abdi after Troy Deeney knocked the ball down to the onrushing midfielder – pretty much the only time that the big target man won a ball in the air in a threatening area of the pitch.
With the Welshman coming in, however, does this spell the end for Jules? Time will tell.
Championship performance in a Championship venue
I will be the first to say that Selhurst Park leaves a lot to be desired as far as Premier League stadiums are concerned (although I wouldn’t have it any other way) but Watford is taking the biscuit. Sure, it has stepped up from the League Two ground that it has been for the past 15 years after finally getting rid of the mish-mash that was the 42 stands that made up one side of the pitch but in doing so they have made the away end almost uninhabitable.
There were only four turnstiles for the away fans to squeeze through as we all thought that we were heading through a burger van to gain entry to the ground (see picture below). It was bad enough getting in there when basically the entire corner of the ground was an entrance prior to the building of the new stand.
Couple this with the fact that they do not sell beer in the away end and then declared that there wasn’t even a smoking area – it all made for some very angry Palace fans and four poor stewards that had no idea what to do when hundreds of Palace fans decided to light up anyway.
Man of the Match: Brede Hangeland
Another fantastic performance from the stand in centre back – if indeed we can call him that anymore. Alongside completing 91% of his 22 passes, the big Norwegian would clear 19 times during the match as he and Scott Dann easily handled everything that Watford could throw at them.
People have already started asking the questions – will Damien Delaney get back in the side? Alan Pardew will have a tough decision to make when the Irishman return from injury.
Up Next: West Brom
Tony Pulis comes back to town. No better time to get back to winning ways for me.
Come on you Palace!