CRYSTAL PALACE V SUNDERLAND, 4TH FEBRUARY 2017



David Moyes gave me a long firm handshake last night. I was attending a function of the London Branch at the Southwark Brewing Co and Moyesey was there for a while to mingle with us together with Martin Bain and Bally. It was handshakes and selfies all the way for the boss and he was very warmly received while Bally stood at the side and largely kept himself to himself. He was very modest about the beer that the Brewery had named in his honour. They have others named after Porterfield and Charlie as it’s owned by some Sunderland folks. I think Bally will still be with us for a good while but whether Moysey will be with us next season may well hinge on the result of today’s match.

All the cliches have been brought out concerning this game but given the sudden improvement in form by Hull and Swansea as well as Palace recently winning for the first time in ages, we really have to get at least a point this afternoon. Our performance against Spurs was definitely encouraging and in terms of having a viable squad things are looking better than they have for a while. We only lost PVA in the transfer-window and not Kone, Borini and Khazri as had seemed likely while we’ve got three more players in that Moyes knows very well, which is a big plus. The ACON players have returned uninjured and Gooch has come back as well while one of these days we’ll have Catts and Kirchhoff back in midfield for when the real dogfighting starts. Palace have a lot of good players, especially upfront and especially Benteke but we kept Spurs at bay and I think we can do well again today. I’d imagine that Big Sam will be applauded by our fans but I suspect PVA won’t. We’ve won on our last two visits to Selhurst Park and I reckon we’ll get at least a point today. Hull play Liverpool and Boro face Spurs while Leicester and Swansea play Man United and Man City respectively tomorrow so surely our rivals will drop points. I only got my ticket in my hands last night so I’ll definitely be going to the game. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

The Tube was very disrupted so as usual it took me best part of two hours to get to the ground. On the way my Spurs-supporting workmate texted to tell me he’d got a bet on for us to win 2-1. As the train pulled into Thornton Heath station the driver said, “Alight here for Selhurst Park and Crystal Palace’s first home win under Sam Allardyce – 3-1 with Patrick van Aarnholt scoring the first goal.” I was in my seat at 2.45 and the mood all round was buoyant as the sun shone and ’Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes played. Several lads in front of me were sporting David Moyes masks. Oviedo was starting and so was Januzaj while Fab was on the bench. PVA was loudly booed when his name was announced and every time he was on the ball thereafter.

From the off Oviedo looked a good asset, getting stuck in when necessary and spraying the ball around well. Seb was yellow-carded after five minutes and was taking no prisoners but just afterwards we put together a great move, A long ball down the middle was met by Defoe and his hard shot was well-saved by Hennessey in goal. This was very promising but two minutes later we were ahead and it actually came from a free-kick. Kone put in a strong header from the left side of their box and when it was cleared he was there again to shoot it into the right hand corner. Palace put the pressure on for the next ten minutes or so but never looked very dangerous and we were defending well. The home fans were chanting, “Off! Off!” as Seb conceded another free-kick but he wasn’t punished further. Cabaye, who’d copped a fair portion of boos himself, went off injured not long before the half-hour mark to be replaced by Ledley. Palace’s passing was really bad, lots of big boots to nowhere in particular, a bit reminiscent of our passing of recent memory. Rodwell was showing some style, when he wasn’t doing something daft, and he set up a great chance for Defoe but the latter was a bit too far to the left of the goal to put in a telling shot. Our back line was looking cool and assured and several times we calmly let the ball go through to Vito without attempting to connect with it. Palace weren’t much threat either so we could afford to do that. I’d have been happy to get in 1-0 up at the break but then the whole afternoon moved into joyously unexpected areas.

With a couple of minutes to go Ndong intercepted the ball on the right side of their half and moving forward slinkily lammed a great long-distance shot into the net. Our end went doolally but we hadn’t finished yet by a long shot. As we entered stoppage-time Januzaj raced onto a ball down the left and fed Defoe who ran into the box and smashed in a low shot to make it 3-0. Palace were looking shell-shocked and two minutes later Defoe slotted in our fourth, this time from the right side of the box. As the half-time whistle went everyone around me had a big grin on their face or was just gawping in amazement. I chatted to the lad next to me and we couldn’t remember the last time were four-up away at half-time. Maybe it’s never happened. We’ve been on the receiving end but…

The second-half was never going to match the first but it was a delight in itself as we slowly coasted towards a great victory. Of course at the back of my mind was the horrible fear that we might blow it and I was wondering what odds could be got on a 4-4 draw. Wasn’t it 5-4 between Swansea and Palace not so long ago? Townsend had replaced Delaney so there was someone else to boo in addition to PVA who was now conveniently on our side of the pitch. In the fiftieth minute there was applause from all sides in memory of a dead Palace fan. I’m afraid I don’t know the details about the lad concerned. A new chant was born and was echoed around for the rest of the game, “Who needs Allardyce when we’ve got David Moyes?” “Big Sam, Big Sam give us a wave,” didn’t produce any response, unsurprisingly. Rodwell had to go off injured early in the half and was replaced by Gibson, who looked strong and athletic and who even had a decent shot on target. Soon O’Shea went down and subsequently was subbed by Lescott. My neighbour suggested that two games in a week was maybe a bit too much for John. He’d played really well, I’d say. Oviedo continued to look good and was rewarded with his own chant (to the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me, Baby?’) “Ov-i-edo, baby.” Hmm, it doesn’t look so good on paper but it sounded good. For the last twenty minutes or so Palace put on a fair bit of pressure and could have got a goal or two back if Vito hadn’t been in such good form. At one point they even caused us all to stop singing, “Shearer is a wanker,” in mid-flow. Remy had replaced McArthur around the hour-mark and he had several decent chances but lacked real firepower. Pienaar replaced Januzaj with fifteen minutes left and he put in a good shift as always. We had a great chance to get another goal with around seven minutes on the clock but as the ball came across the box from the left Defoe slipped at the crucial moment and it went begging. I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t kept a clean sheet and near the end Vito made three great saves within seconds to keep it that way. There was great rejoicing and throwing of players’ shirts into our end after the whistle went.

This was very much a game to remember for a long time and it was a solid all-round performance with the new lads putting in a sound display, especially Oviedo. Hull won against Liverpool but Boro are currently losing against Spurs. Whatever our rivals do, though, this win and Tuesday’s result have given me confidence that we can take care of our fate this season ourselves.


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