Tag Archives: Selhurst Park

Palace and Everton stalemate suits neither team

A rainy afternoon in South London was the setting for a lively 2-2 draw between Crystal Palace and Everton as both sides fought for a victory they desperately needed.

With both hosts and visitors in trouble at the wrong end of the Premier League, a single point suited neither, but defeat would have been unthinkable.

The game began horrendously for Toffees caretaker boss David Unsworth as the hosts were ahead within a minute at Selhurst Park. Palace’s first attack of the game was finished off by James McArthur, who found the net after Ruben Loftus-Cheek had forced Jordan Pickford into an early save.

However, that lead was short-lived as the Evertonians fought back to level matters soon after. Eagles defender Scott Dann fouled Oumar Niasse in the penalty area, and Leighton Baines made no mistake from the spot.

There was a real question mark over whether Niasse was touched at all in this one – and that doubt led to an FA charge for ‘simulation’ in the days following the game.

Wilfried Zaha then put the Eagles back in the driving seat, as he was brilliantly picked out by a cross from Joel Ward, allowing him to roll the ball into an empty net at the far post on 35 minutes.

Calamitous

What then followed was a calamitous piece of Palace defending as Everton were handed their second gift of the day, thanks again Dann and goalkeeper Julian Speroni.

‘Referee Andrew Taylor was booed and jeered off the pitch by the home support after the game, the Palace faithful laying the blame for the dropped points on his shoulders’

The pair nervously exchanged passes before Idrissa Gueye stepped in to intercept, and Niasse took the opportunity with great aplomb, rolling home to put his team back on level terms on the stroke of half time.

There was far less goalmouth action in the second half but it was not for want of trying. Palace dominated throughout but ultimately were not being able to find the key to unlock the Everton door. In fact for all of their possession and attacking intent a key element of the forward line did seem to be missing all day.

A certain Belgian sitting on the bench looked on longingly, and in fact there were a few deliveries again from Ward in the second half that might well have been more of a problem for Pickford if Christian Benteke had been on the pitch.

In the second half, both defences were tightened up and even the eventual late introduction of Benteke, left out of the starting line-up, could not deliver a winner.

Referee Andrew Taylor was booed and jeered off the pitch by the home support after the game, the Palace faithful laying the blame for the dropped points on his shoulders as the full-time whistle blew.

Hodgson irritated

Sitting down for just three minutes to chat to the media, Palace boss Roy Hodgson was irritated by his side’s inability to turn possession into victory.

‘We can discuss it till the cows come home, but the referee gave it as a penalty they took it and they scored it’ – Roy Hodgson

“If you look at the performance over 95 minutes, I believe we played well enough to win the game,” he claimed.

In combative mood, the ex-England manager was then asked whether it was time to turn these dropped points into wins. “Yeah, well how do you do that?” he shot back at his inquisitor, staring into his soul.

When it was suggested it was his job to galvanise his team, Hodgson then asked pointedly: “So what do I actually do then?”

On the issue of the penalty, he said: “I’m pretty certain you’ve asked Dave Unsworth the same question and he’s said it was a foul, and now you’ll ask me and I’ll say it wasn’t.

“We can discuss it till the cows come home, but the referee gave it as a penalty they took it and they scored it.”

When the press conference cameras were switched off, Hodgson turned to journalists and began a small rant, visibly irritated by the way the game had gone.

In fairness to him, many would agree that Loftus-Cheek and Zaha have breathed fresh life into his side.

Unsworth praises team

Everton’s heroics in coming from behind to beat Watford may feel a distant memory, but Unsworth’s credentials as a potential Everton manager may well be enhanced after recent weeks.

A lot of Blues fans will argue that Ronald Koeman failed to get any kind of response during the final weeks of his tenure. At least the team are playing for Unsworth.

He could yet remain in the role, given Everton’s unsuccessful tug-of-war with Watford over Marco Silva.

After the game Unsworth was in fairly good spirits. “They’ve been terrific since the first training session that we came together, up until today’s game. They’ve given me everything and I can tell the Everton fans have given me everything as well.”

Then on the penalty and with the smell of an FA charge in the air, Unsworth understandably took the “I haven’t seen it since and couldn’t see it from where I was sitting” approach.

Only time will tell whether his efforts thus far will be enough for majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright to give him the job on a permanent basis, but the former player continues to stake a claim.

Connor Wickham – nearly man or more to come?

Sometimes you have to really focus on a player during a match to gauge the progress they’re making – or lack of it.

That’s partly why I was at Selhurst Park on a minus-temperature Monday night to keep a close eye on Connor Wickham as he came up against former club Sunderland.

After an injury-hit start, the 22-year-old forward now looks to be enjoying life at Crystal Palace after a summer move from the Stadium of Light.

The Premier League clash with the Black Cats was only his fifth appearance for Palace, and it’s clear he’s being asked to play a bigger role by Alan Pardew.

The Palace boss clearly sees potential in Wickham as the spearhead in a well-balanced side – one with pace on the wings and guile in midfield.

He looked like a man playing with confidence, knowing that he has the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha supplying him, as well as French international Yohan Cabaye.

Unproven

Sunderland paid an initial fee of £8m to land Wickham from Ipswich in June 2011, but his development was hampered as he found himself behind the more experienced Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon in the pecking order.

The Wearsiders’ annual struggle to avoid relegation didn’t help – a club in desperate need of points isn’t going to turn to a 20 year old unproven at the highest level for goals.

“Wickham’s energy was a key element as Palace tried to open things up”

He still managed to make 74 appearances for Sunderland, but Palace’s £7m offer (reportedly rising to £9m with adds-ons) was deemed too good to refuse.

With Sunderland playing five at the back to negate Palace’s attacking threat, Wickham’s time on the ball was short and sweet.

His one-touch link up play became his main asset rather than his ability to get behind defensive lines. It was clear Palace’s plan was to get the ball out wide to stretch Sunderland and create space for Wickham in the middle.

For a man of 6”3, his pace does not go unnoticed. This was one of the main reasons Sunderland and Ipswich used to play him on the wing, as he can also beat men and pull teams out of shape.

Wickham’s work rate was impressive. Although not seeing much of the ball, his energy was a key element as Palace tried to open things up, although on the night their cutting edge was lacking.

Sidelined

Being clinical in a game of half-chances is what separates good sides from the best. Palace failed to take theirs and then shot themselves in the foot late on as Jermain Defoe nipped in to capitalise on a mistake by Scott Dan and sneak the winner.

“An injury-free run of games will surely allow Wickham to find his feet again”

Pardew admitted afterwards that his team lacked composure in the final third. “Our crossing and final pass let us down. It was a simplistic game [Sunderland] played but they did it well,” he told BBC Sport.

Wickham made way for Marouane Chamakh in the 76th minute and got a warm response from the home fans who were also happy to see the fit-again Chamakh returning to action.

Wickham posed enough of a threat to keep his place in the starting XI, bearing in mind this was his first start since Palace defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after which he was sidelined with a calf problem.

An injury-free run of games will surely allow him to find his feet again, however goals will have to return to the Englishman’s game as he’ll have Chamakh and Dwight Gayle waiting in the wings for any bad form.

Once touted as the next big thing after his sublime performances for Ipswich in the Championship, his emergence as an England international has since stalled. Wickham will hope now, at Palace, he’s given the chance to prove he has the ability be among the top strikers in the Premier League.