Kick In The Teeth A Reality Check
As the crowd plodded out of Selhurst Park on Saturday evening following the defeat to West Ham United, there was one thing everyone could agree with – this was one to forget.
Having entered the international break on a good run of form that had propelled Palace to within touching distance of the early pacesetters, Manuel Lanzini’s goal was a kick in the teeth that doubled as a reality check.
False dawns are common at Palace. Half of last season was spent riding the crest of a wave, until talk of Europe was replaced with talk of potential relegation. But while Palace’s inability to score or pick up any points at home against a faltering West Ham side was disappointing, the tepid performance that accompanied the first half was the kicker.
It could have been so different. Early chances and a missed Christian Benteke penalty would have swung the tie in the home side’s favour had luck been in. Instead, the home supporters were left ruing what was a great chance to hammer another nail into the calamitous coffin that had appeared to be enveloping the visitors.
For the all disappointment, it didn’t feel like the sort of result that would be pivotal in the context of the season. So often of late, fear of the worst following a defeat was commonplace. More a frustration than a foreboding sense of gloom.
The result will, no doubt, allow a small bit of unease creep back into Pardew’s psyche. With a trip to the King Power to play the faltering Champions on Saturday, Palace will be faced with a similar test to the one against the Hammers. Despite the smatterings of quality in the Leicester team, they are playing at numerous levels below the heights they scaled last season. A win would see any self doubts in the Palace side disappear. A loss might unsettle the side a bit further before the visit of Liverpool.
Questions remain about squad depth and will do so until reinforcements can be acquired in January. Saturday demonstrated just how much the absence of Scott Dann and Pape Souare are being felt. Joel Ward’s good performances are few and far between these days, while Delaney looks at times off the pace. Mandanda’s assured presence behind the back four will bring calm, but will it be enough to stem the tide of Leicester, and a particularly rampant Liverpool side?
Again, it is important to not get too carried away with the defeat. The points amassed since the late equaliser at Bournemouth in August have been a significant tonic to the woes that preceded it in the months previously. While it would be nice to be sat here lamenting another comedic West Ham performance, the coming weeks are crucial in shaping an idea of how the table will begin to take shape.
It seems likely that the teams now occupying the top eight will be the ones in those positions come the end of the season. Key for Palace will be ensuring they continue to pick up points against the sides immediately around them. Where Palace will be at the beginning of next international break will be an accurate barometer of the season that lies ahead.