Palace 2-1 Stoke
This match report is written by author of the Palace Addiction, James Howland. He is filling in for me while I sun myself in Mexico on honeymoon. You can buy his book here.
A late, late winner from Mamadou Sakho gave Palace a vital three points at home to Stoke City. Ironically, the victory came from the weakest of our last five performances, where we haven’t taken the rewards we’ve deserved against Newcastle, Spurs, West Ham and Everton.
After a drab first half, Stoke took the lead eight minutes into the second period thanks to a solo goal by Xherdan Shaqiri. While there’s no doubting the quality of the run and shot by the Swiss winger, Palace’s defending was as questionable as the little man’s celebration in front of the Holmesdale. Luca, Sakho and Ward all had chances to either tackle or foul Shaqiri before he smashed the ball past Hennessey.
However, Palace equalised two and a half minutes later when Ruban Loftus-Cheek turned in a sublime cross from Andross Townsend. Needing a win, Palace lacked ideas of how to break down a well organised Stoke side, who looked the more likely to pinch the three points.
Thankfully, in the second minute of three added on, Wilf showed some magic on the left to twice beat his man and put in a cross for Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman fired a low effort against the post, which rebounded beautifully to Sakho, who had the simplest of tasks to win the match. Selhurst erupted with relief and Palace moved to within three points of safety. It was a glorious moment for us to cherish after a dire game.
It was all about the win.
Firstly, we did not play well yesterday. There were many faults in the performance: Schlupp needs to get forward and give us width, we were too slow to move the ball forward, we didn’t get anywhere near enough crosses into Benteke, Sakho looked like a liability, Loftus-Cheek needs to work harder, etc. etc. But frankly, I don’t care about any of that. Yesterday was all about winning. And we did.
9 home wins in 23 months has taken it out of us.
Regularly, Selhurst is lauded as having one of the best atmospheres in the country. When we were first back in the Premier League, conceding a goal was responded to with renewed vigour in the stands but yesterday, after Shaqiri’s goal, defeat just felt inevitable. Everybody, myself included, seemed to slump into silence. Yet for once, it was the players who showed the spirit and grit that usually comes from the crowd and hit back immediately. As a fan base, we need to get back to where we were and find our voices in tough times. Hopefully, the fact that we’re now four home games unbeaten will help us to trust the team again, rather than habitually expect them to ruin our weekends.
Hodgson’s impact has been outstanding but still no clean sheets.
Since arriving, Hodgson has shown plenty of intelligence and ruthlessness in switching formations, dropping players and improving fitness. Vitally, he’s also worked intensely on our shape both on and off the ball. However, despite this, we have now played nearly a third of the season and haven’t kept a single clean sheet in the league. This must be infuriating for Roy. All his good work on the defence is undone by individual errors. If we want to stay up, we must cut these out. In Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek and Benteke, we have more than enough fire-power to nick victories if we can shut out the opposition.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
Zaha ran him close, regularly showing he was miles ahead of every single other player on the pitch in terms of ability, without hitting the highs of a couple of other games this season. However, at the back, Tomkins was excellent. Strong in the tackle and comfortable on the ball. I can’t see him losing his place any time soon.
Bring on the Brighton. Come on you Palace!