It’s been a good few weeks for Crystal Palace, just when the team looked to be seriously struggling, one defeat in five games has given the players some much needed belief going into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Watford.
April was; and still is, a big month for Palace, a total of seven games in a month was always going to test the squad and make or break their season. So far Alan Pardew’s men have coped very well with the games coming thick and fast, with only one defeat this month, the signs are looking good for the South London club.
The Eagles sit nine points above the drop zone; however, the teams below them do have games in hand. Pardew’s men are only one point off the magical 40-point mark and although relegation is looking more and more unlikely, the Eagles aren’t yet mathematically safe.
An away trip to Newcastle United awaits next Saturday and Pardew’s men will all but secure their Premier League survival with a win. It could be an emotional one for the Palace boss, who could see his men fire the Magpies towards the relegation trapdoor – the club he previously managed for four years.
The Eagles finally picked up that long awaited first league win of 2016, the last team in England’s top four divisions to do so. The 1-0 defeat of relegation rivals Norwich City was a huge game for both sets of players and it helped distance the Eagles from the teams below them.
Jason Puncheon scored his first goal of the season and the strike was enough to see off the Canaries and it was clear to see ‘Punch’ was feeling emotional after the goal in what has been a tough few months for the midfielder. He’s one of the key players in the team and it’s great to have him back fully fit and really doing what he does best in the middle of the park, picking out passes and dominating the midfield areas.
A draw away at Arsenal last weekend was a great result for Pardew’s men too. The players were on the back foot for most of the game, but seemed to find a goal from somewhere – I really don’t know how but it done the job – and came away with a much needed draw to add to the club’s overall points total.
A goal for Yannick Bolasie will give the attacking player much confidence going into the final three games. His end product has been criticised at times this season; his skills, pace and flare are good enough to frighten any defenders in the league, but when it comes to that end pass or cross in the final third of the pitch, his quality has been questioned. That goal will give him some self-belief and it was present when he ran off to celebrate with the manager.
The midweek defeat to Manchester United was almost inevitable. Pardew himself said after the game it was understandable that perhaps the players may have had one eye already on the trip to Wembley and their focus may have been slightly blurred. The manager rung the changes for the trip to Old Trafford as he seeks to have his best available eleven for the club’s first semi-final in 21 years.
The semi-final on Sunday will be a great occasion for everyone involved with Palace, the club will be looking to reach their first final in 26 years. Pardew knows all too well what it takes in an FA Cup semi-final, the former Palace player scored an extra-time winner to see off Liverpool 4-3 way back in 1990, however, all eyes will be on Wembley this time round.
Previous results have picked up and it is positive to see the players enjoying themselves on the pitch a little bit more, although I still wouldn’t say they are back to their best. There are areas which need improving and I’m sure Pardew will aim to repair those issues for next season.
But for now; the momentum which hasn’t been there, is behind the squad for once and let’s hope they take that to Wembley with them on Sunday and reach the FA Cup final!