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Crystal Palace 4 Watford 0 (18/02/2012) 19/02/2012

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. You can shut up about Tuesday, for a start. As it happens, I rather like Valentine’s Day: I’m well aware that I could buy my better half cards and flowers on every other day of the year, but everyone needs a gentle nudge from time to time. Of all the things the modern world offers to be righteously indignant about, Valentine’s Day is nowhere near the top of the list. Not until someone makes our “lifetime guarantee” kitchen bin open properly, at any rate.

So, yeah…Tuesday. A floodlit win-against-the-odds thriller, with debut goal from young starlet, blistering stick-that-in-yer-pipe winner, and out-of-control refereeing? Who ordered that? If you’re going to play on Valentine’s Day, you could at least have the common sodding decency to deliver a cold, coagulated turd of a match. Something to thoroughly punish all who put romance aside to watch some muddy, sweaty blokes in shorts huffing and puffing, to make them shuffle back through the front door begging forgiveness and weeping tears of shame. Something truly unspeakable, a hushed-up atrocity. Something like…oh, this….

2. Unless something happened behind the pillar that obscured the centre circle – maybe we kicked off really impressively, five times – this was a performance entirely without redeeming features. Nothing there at all. We stumbled bleary-eyed from our Tuesday night delirium into as much daylight as Croydon can muster, and played against capable, organised opponents as if still shaking the dreams from our befuddled brains.

The beauty of Selhurst is that you’ve always seen worse – this is, by my reckoning, at least the third time I’ve sat on these wooden seats and seen us lose by a four-goal-plus margin – but this registered high on the scale, not quite up there with this but uncomfortably close to this. For a team so recently acclaimed for its fighting spirit, we looked a disinterested, discouraged shower; we received precisely the sharp slap in the face that we were asking for.

3. That we were out-witted by our opponents is easy enough to forgive. It happens. That we were out-witted by our opponents, using exactly the same tactics that’d out-witted us with equal comfort back in October is much harder to take. We should shudder as we recall the cries of “olé” that began to greet our early spells of possession, Eustace and Hogg allowed time on the ball to shuffle it sideways to no purpose whatsoever. As at Vicarage Road, Palace sat two holding midfielders in front of their defence and invited us to pick a way through; as at Vicarage Road, we stumbled haplessly into the trap, allowing the tempo to drop to pedestrian, unable to react to the pace of the breaks that emerged from our cumbersome attacks.

Missing the energetic bustle of Deeney, it was only when we pushed John Eustace twenty yards further forward that the game changed…and by that time, the damage was done, picked off on the counter-attack after over-playing in search of an opening, and the heads were already dropping. A slow, lumbering dinosaur of a team, tripped up so easily and left to lie face down in the Selhurst rain, lost and confused.

4. Of course, even the finest tactical manoeuvres – sneaking an extra player onto the pitch when the ref’s not looking, that kind of thing – count for nowt if you can’t defend a set piece properly. Palace won five corners and perhaps as many free kicks in wide positions; they scored from three of them, meeting with a quite laughable lack of resistance in the process. We had more of those situations and…um, well…nothing doing.

The overwhelming trend is to blame Scott Loach for these things, there being no available scapegoats in the back four at present. And while you do often yearn for a keeper who’d come to the penalty spot and claim with confidence, rising imperiously above all like the Statue of Liberty in a green (well, purple) shirt, we should surely be able to defend on the basis that he won’t be doing that. No excuse for attention so slack that three set pieces goals are scored with barely a challenge. Absolutely no excuse for wasting a vaguely positive start to the second half – Gavin Massey looking nimble and keen, at least – with a goal as pitiful as the third, scuffed free kick, scuffed across goal, scuffed into the net.

5. And so we came to those quintessential Selhurst moments…sitting slumped forwards and staring fixedly out into the sweeping rain, wondering whether it’ll let up before we all have to trudge to the station. It did; small mercies. Watching Loach launch the umpteenth goal kick towards the left wing onto the head of Craig Forsyth, only to remember that he’d been substituted a few seconds before. Watching a Palace defender flick a header narrowly wide of his own goal and realising that we’d get no closer than that ourselves if the game lasted until Christmas. Watching Eustace catch a sight of goal, catch a flicker of hope…and slice a drive towards the corner flag, then turn away.



1. nick - 19/02/2012

Ig, you’ve managed to make the game sound as turgid as it was. An achievement to be applauded.

Massey was the only bright spark on an incredibly bad day. His ability to hold the ball up, run at pace, win the odd header despite being 4 foot nothing and give us some movement was perhaps more evident due to the performance of the hapless garbage that is Iwelumo and Garner who gave probably his worst performance in a yellow shirt.

Its perhaps poor to pick the worst performers from this shower but Doyley and Nyron will both have much better days.

Loach will no doubt come in for some criticism but I dont think he had too much chance with any of the goals, the first due to Doyley and Nyrons lack of clearance, the second Nyrons lack of marking, the third Hodson seemingly asleep until the palace fans cheers woke him up and the fourth was poor marking again although Loach seemed weak on this one. perhaps he needs taking out of the firing line for a bit and young Bond given a go. Much for his own sanity as anything else.

2. sahorn1 - 19/02/2012

Yup, that sums it up for me too.
Worse was my Watford fan brother who lives in Streatham having the indignity of his 13 year old son who has grown up a Palace supporter and sitting with Palace fans in the same rickety stand baiting his dad sitting with the Watford fans … that’s just poor parenting if you ask me! My bro had to text my nephew and tell him to sit down or else!!
The only redeeming feature was Massey in that he is quick and can hold up the ball. If he can shoot, then he may, just may, be a young Sordell lookalike.
Miserable little wooden seats on a miserable day. Even my defending of Iwelumo’s performances in the past completely evaporated as he was woeful. Eustace and Hogg had no option but to pass to each other as there was just a complete lack of space -opening runs up front.
Woeful, but lets hope it’s out of the system and we will be back to more of a bulldog fighting spirit against Southampton, cos on that form they will rip us apart …

3. sw17 - 19/02/2012

Its getting monotonous going to Palace games with my Eagles supporting wife .

If it were not for the past play-off victory & the hope it always engenders, I would never take the 8minute train ride to Selhurst again.

4. MartinG - 19/02/2012

Up in Scotland for the weekend. Reading about the Rangers fiasco in the papers. Craig Whtye Rangers owner: ‘His main attribute is his ability at smoke and mirrors’ ‘completely unforthcoming about his personal circumstances and sources of funding’ ‘ has changed his name and date of birth various times making tracing his activities harder’

Oh dear.

NeilS - 19/02/2012

Completely agree. How does someone amass such a fortune that they can spend (waste?) multi millions on a football club and yet only a few short years ago was bankrupt. It just doesn’t add up.

5. NickB - 20/02/2012

Nothing to add to thunks, but wanted to help ig avoid an even lower than 7 comments scenario…

Ian Grant - 20/02/2012

Thanks, Nick.

Ian Grant - 20/02/2012

That’s very kind.

Ian Grant - 20/02/2012

Very kind indeed.

Ian Grant - 20/02/2012


6. Simon T - 20/02/2012

I wish Loach would hurry up with his goal kicks – they are painfully deliberate at times. Like when he shapes to throw the ball out left, then right, and then decides to kick it anyway which we all knew he would in the first place.

On the plus side Massey did look very promising. I’ve also decided never go back to Selhurst Park – no good can ever come of it.

Keep up the great work Matt and ig.

7. Sequel - 21/02/2012

From your report, IG, this sounds like the very definition of “After The Lord Mayor’s Show….”

8. JohnF - 21/02/2012

Ian, you know better than to go to games like Palace away because you invariably end up depressed. I listened to the game on the radio and your report seems spot on. However, all is not lost and maybe a wake-up call could be a good thing in the end. Let’s see how we do over the next few games as we only need 4 wins to achieve the magical 52. However, this time we are in the position to bring in the youngsters when they are fresh and that coul be just what we need.

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