Rather unsurprisingly, it was a typical Palace and Hodgson performance that has left us frustrated to only come away with a point from Selhurst Park…
The home side were largely stubborn in defence, whilst offering very little going forward. We controlled large parts of the game and, especially in the second half, created several chances to win the match. When you look at our next three fixtures against Tottenham, Liverpool and then Man City, you can’t help but feel like this was a massive opportunity missed.
Scott Parker made two changes to the side that had picked up three points against bottom of the table Sheffield United last week. Kenny Tete and Bobby De Cordova-Reid coming in for Antonee Robinson and Ivan Cavaleiro. With Tete starting at right back, it meant Ola Aina had to display his versatility and slot in at left back; not really a problem for him being that he is so comfortable with both feet. Although he won’t maraud forward like Robinson, I feel as though he offers a quality final ball when he does overlap and gets to the by line.
The first half was largely uneventful, to tell the truth, with neither side registering a shot on target. Despite this, Palace probably had their best moment of the game around the half-hour mark. Andres Townsend twisted and turned down the right, which allowed him to swing in a teasing cross, however, Joachim Andersen was on the stretch and rather fortunately managed to guide the ball into Alphonse Areola’s hands. About five minutes later, and following good work from Tete, we found ourselves with a dangerous free kick on the right-hand side of the box. Lookman delivered the ball at pace and Andersen came crashing onto it but was unable to guide the ball anywhere near the target.
Parker tried to inject some more pace into the side at halftime by introducing Robinson for Aina down the left. This was unlike Parker who normally likes to stick with his starting 11 until somewhere around the 70-minute mark. Nonetheless, this was a positive change because we all know that Robinson loves to bomb forward, despite his final ball lacking in quality at times.
As we often do, I felt like we grew into the game and began to play a lot of our football in the attacking third. We pressed Palace well throughout the game and had them pinned back for large spells of the second half.
Contrary to the first half, our domination of possession and pressure led to some good chances to win the game. Loftus-Cheek won a free kick about 30 yards from goal and to everybody’s surprise, Andersen stepped up and looked confident in his ability to trouble Guaita in the Palace goal. He smashed his effort low and towards the bottom left-hand corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way in the process, however, the ball swerved wide of the post. Shortly after, Josh Maja managed to manoeuvre the ball onto his left foot on the edge of the box, after finding the yard of space he bent his effort agonisingly wide of the left-hand post. Relentless pressure from Fulham continued when Cavaleiro was introduced, replacing top scorer De Cordova-Reid. He made a lively start down the right by cutting back onto his left and curling a delightful cross right on the money for Maja who had managed to get in-between the two Palace centre halves. Having got there, he really should have buried his header, although you do have to credit Guaita who reacted sharply and got down to his left well. From the resulting corner, Andersen found himself in acres of space at the back post but saw his effort expertly blocked by veteran Gary Cahill.
Mitrovic found himself back on the bench today after a short spell off due to testing positive for Covid. He was introduced with about 20 minutes left but failed to have any real impact on the game. You do have to credit Parker for not resting on his laurels and replacing Anguissa with Mitro, which saw us playing with two out-and-out strikers for the last part of the game.
Despite the efforts of the players and manager, we were unable to break the deadlock and the game ended goalless. The point sees us remain three behind Newcastle and Brighton with 12 games to play. As mentioned earlier, we now have a very tough spell of games ahead of us. There is some hope in that we have already picked up draws against Spurs and Liverpool earlier in the season; these teams have also been struggling for form as of late. At the end of the day, we have given ourselves a fighting chance of survival and there is a real belief we can avoid relegation this year. It certainly won’t be easy, but I believe we have the quality to get ourselves out of trouble.