Crystal Palace earned three vital points in their bid to avoid the drop as they saw off relegation rivals Middlesbrough with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Selhurst Park has been a pretty depressing place over the last six months with the club picking up 10 points at home this term. It was only the Eagles’ second win in their last 13 matches and just a third clean sheet of a miserable season.
Conceding goals has been a huge downfall for the club in the last year and manager, Sam Allardyce, has made it clear the defensive areas are where the problems lie. However, it was a solid performance against Aitor Karanka’s men and finally gave the home fans something to celebrate.
Patrick Van Aanholt scored the winner, his first goal for the club since his £14million signing from relegation rivals Sunderland last month. He seems to have brought his scoring touch with him since his move from the north east, where his goals played a huge part in keeping the club up last season. He seems happy to be reunited with Allardyce and really looks like he wants to play for the club which is exactly what the team needs at this moment in time.
The win briefly moved the club outside of the bottom three, however, after Leicester City’s win against Liverpool, the Eagles lie in 18th, on goal difference. Trying to keep up with the teams directly above them is vital from now until the end of the season.
With only three points separating 15th – 19th place in the Premier League, it’s too tight to call who will beat the drop or succumb to the threat of Championship football. However, if Palace are to stay up then winning similar games like that against Middlesbrough will certainly put the club in a good position come May 21.
New signing Mamadou Sakho made his debut for the club and put in an impressive first performance. The Frenchman, who is on loan from Liverpool until the end of the season, showed composure on the ball at the back and was confident enough to play the ball out from defensive areas, something which has been a struggle for the his new teammates. It was nice to see the ball played into feet rather than another long unsuccessful ball into Christian Benteke, an area the manager has quickly tried to eradicate.
Sakho replaced club captain Scott Dann, who was suffering from a slight knock and after his debut performance, I feel he should be the first name on the team sheet next Saturday to face West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. He has experience of playing international and European football and it was clear to see he has that solidarity which has been dearly missed. As a Palace fan, I would like to see the Frenchman cement a starting place and make his mark from now until the end of the season.
Some Liverpool fans were angered by the club’s decision to allow Sakho to leave and he was arguably their best defender last year. It merits his style of play and I think he could be the club’s most important signing from the January transfer window.
Next up is West Brom who have picked up 26 points at home and only tasted three defeats at the Hawthorns. It will be a difficult match but the club have gained some momentum and confidence leading up to the game. It will also be a chance for the players to express themselves knowing they can get a result as they proved that on Saturday against a well organised side.