Saints 3-1 Palace
Jason Puncheon lost for the first time as Crystal Palace captain against his former Club, Southampton. Christian Benteke gave the Eagles the lead on thirty-one minutes, converting from close range after flowing play between Wilfried Zaha, Puncheon and Andros Townsend, but a controversial equaliser on the stroke of half-time changed the game.
Steven Davis fouled Zaha on the sideline and from the resulting cross, Nathan Redmond volleyed home. Southampton may consider this as retribution as a few minutes earlier, Jeffrey Schlupp could easily have seen a penalty awarded against him for a handball.
Yohan Cabaye had to be withdrawn through injury at the break, an injury that will see him miss the visit of Arsenal to Selhurst Park on Monday, and his absence in the middle of the park saw the hosts take control. Martin Kelly, in for the injured James Tomkins, did strike the post with the scores still level, but ‘slimline’ Wayne Hennessey was in good form once more and had to be at his best to keep Puel’s men at bay until the eighty-fourth minute before Maya Yoshida converted from close range. Just moments later, James Ward-Prowse produced a carbon copy of Yoshida’s goal and the game was lost.
The injuries are mounting up, and we find ourselves confronting the last Alan Pardew hangover – a lack of squad depth. Allardyce has addressed the balance and the fitness of the squad, but the quality in depth in something that must be looked at in the summer.
For the last thirty minutes, Bakary Sako, Damien Delaney and Martin Kelly were on the field. They are all Championship players at best. For Damo, this is down to his age and it is far from his fault. Kelly is a shadow of the man he was before Pardew hung him out to dry at full back and Sako is nothing more than a passenger at this level. Tadic took liberties with the three of them, and that ultimately led to the first defeat in five.
It becomes difficult for Allardyce in the summer as he will need to invest heavily in the back line. As well as needing as many as three centre-backs, he is also going to need a right back. Ward has been just about passable during the unbeaten run, but he was back to his worst last night and he really struggled to stop Nathan Redmond. So much so that Redmond was even beating Ward in the air. Maybe competition for the place will help him rediscover the form that had people demanding an England call-up, but there is no doubt now that we must add another right back to the squad.
The Refereeing Decisions
Across the 90 minutes, Southampton effectively thrashed us. Yes, we scored a free flowing and beautiful goal and hit the post twice, however, they cut us open at will and only repeated excellent work from Hennessey kept the score down.
BUT, there is no doubt that a terrible refereeing decision changed the game. If the referee correctly awards a foul on Wilfried Zaha, we go into the break 1-0 up. Who knows what happens from that point. Of course, Southampton fans will point to the Schlupp handball, but I think that it would have been a harsh penalty. Schlupp has not deliberately handled the ball, it has bounced up sharply and he has slipped, causing his arm to swing around and made contact with the ball. Don’t get me wrong, I’d want it given at the other end, but it is not as bad a decision as David pushing Zaha over with both hands literally half a yard away from the linesman.
As monumental as the win was at Chelsea, it was only three points. Meanwhile, Hull are picking up wins for fun and Swansea have a markedly easier run in than us. The fans and the players have to realise that we are still deep in the mire and have to give it everything we’ve got if we are to get out of this. Allardyce’s record against good teams down the stretch needs to extend into this season, or we might find ourselves heading to Old Trafford on the final day needing a result. I will be a United fan in every Europa League match they play between now and May, as I want them playing in that final just a few days after they play us in order for us to have an edge.
Man of the Match: Wayne Hennessey
The big man made a series of fine stops, far beyond anything he had to do at Chelsea on the weekend. The reports that he has lost a stone in weight might be the secret behind his new found form. His saves from Redmond’s header and Shane Long’s one on one were amazing.
Long may it continue.
Up Next: Arsenal
Cabaye, van Aanholt, Tomkins and Dann are all out and Arsenal appears to have rediscovered their mojo in the last few days. That being said, no one gave us a chance at Chelsea and this time we will be back under the lights at Selhurst Park – it is about time that we started to turn Selhurst back into the fortress that it once was.
Come on you Palace!