I approached this match in the uncomfortable state of cautious optimism. Much-improved showings at Wolves and Sheffield United suggested we were coming to terms with the demands of the Premier League. However with only one point to show for our efforts we are already at the stage where a victory is more essential than a good performance. My positivity was also tempered by my respect for Sir Roy and his ability to organise and frustrate. His Palace side had assuredly pissed on our fireworks the last time they came to the Cottage, which possibly set the tone for the disastrous season that unfolded.
Scott Parker replaced Ivan Cavaliero with Mario Lemina but otherwise kept faith with last week’s line up and our bright start seemed to justify his selection. All our early good work was undone though when Palace scored with their first meaningful attack; just as they’d done on their last visit two years ago. The first goal is vital in any game; after all, when we got it last year in the Championship we didn’t lose. In the Premier League, it’s even more important, especially when faced with such a disciplined team as Palace. To be fair we responded well and Ademola Lookman was unlucky to hit the post twice with Mitro missing a golden chance on the rebound from the second effort. For all our possession though it still seemed Palace carried an equal threat on the counter and so it proved in the second half.
We’d again huffed and puffed but the visitors were clinical as Zaha buried their first proper chance of the half to put the game beyond our reach. We still played some neat football and created the odd half chance but it’s hard to maintain belief when we find ourselves with a mountain to climb on a regular basis. The final throes were played out with a harsh VARdict turning Abou Kamara’s mistimed challenge from yellow to red. We even found time in the 96th minute for Tom Cairney to score our first home goal of the season with a signature worldie but it was scant consolation as we watched another three points disappear down the drain.
It’s difficult to see how we can stop the rot. We play a lot of ‘easy on the eye’ football but the killer instinct necessary to win games at this level is missing. Plenty of players were in the vicinity for Palace’s opener but nobody had the wherewithal to track Riedewald’s run. It seems so basic but when we concede goals like this week in, week out it’s soul-destroying.
The usual Khan solution is to sack the manager but after 7 years at the helm, they must have realised by now that it isn’t the answer. Scott Parker is doing his best in very difficult circumstances. We were effectively the 24th best team in the English League structure last season and he had 5 weeks grace to turn us into a team capable of being 17th at worst. For now, that is still an achievable target but for it to remain a realistic target and for the sake of instilling belief in our fractured confidence then next week’s game with West Brom is pivotal. If we lose that one I can’t see too many more 15 quids being forked out for our upcoming fixtures, although if our poor form continues our games might be carried free to air on the horror or comedy channels. Every cloud people?