What Did We Learn From The Cup Win Over Spurs?
It has turned from another flirt with the cup to a full on love affair with it once again, but what did we learn from beating the North London side?
1. Here’s to the old guard. Scott Dann, Joel Ward and Martin Kelly have all been forced to wait their turn this season, but their collective performance against Tottenham served as a reminder that – defensively, at least – Palace’s squad depth isn’t so bad after all. As attack after attack was repelled and repelled, it felt like a throwback to three or four years ago when you could be confident that a one or two-goal lead would be more than sufficient for the Eagles to hold on at home. As lucky as Palace are to have Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins at the heart of the defence, they’re equally as fortunate to have such competent deputies.
2. This felt like one of those, “Look at his face! Just look at his face!”, moments. Knowing Connor Wickham’s luck in recent years, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the linesman’s flag go up as he thighed the ball into the net from a yard, but perhaps the tides are changing. It might not have been quite as glamorous as he’d have pictured it, but after 799 days since his last goal and more than two years on from his last start, no one could deny Wickham his moment. There are many who will admit that they never expected to see the 25-year-old in a Palace shirt again, so it is testament to the man that he has been able to restore himself to a level that Roy Hodgson deems good enough to lead the line in an FA Cup game against Spurs.
3. Those of us who have been watching Julian Speroni over the past 15 years knew that his performance against Liverpool was a mere anomaly. If the Argentinian has taught us anything during that time, it’s that he relishes proving people wrong, and his double save from Georges-Kévin N’Koudou was as defiant a statement as they come. Speroni’s loyalty is a rarity in modern football and it’s unlikely that Palace will ever see anyone of his ilk ever again. Should Sunday have been the last time that we see the Argentinian step out under the Selhurst Park lights as a Palace player, then it’s fitting that fate conspired to give him the send off he truly deserves.
4. Sunday’s game proved once again that Palace are more comfortable playing on the counter attack. Tottenham might have seen far more of the ball, but Palace were much more effective with it. The away side were admittedly missing a number of key players, but the Eagles found themselves two goals up without having to overexert themselves, and in truth looked like they could have found another gear if required. The home side were compact in defence and – with Wickham holding the ball up well – were able to break quickly with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend. It might not work against every team, but it seems clear that this squad is happier to invite pressure before catching their opponent’s cold on the break. With two centre forwards now fit, it’s how Palace should be setting up each week.
5. Who knew, the singing section works. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, there is no denying that the atmosphere in the Holmesdale against Tottenham was infinitely better than any other home game this season. Such was the relentlessness of the chanting that by the end of the game it was noticeable that a number of younger fans – some clearly attending their first game at Selhurst Park – had picked up on the lyrics to the songs. That, ultimately, is what it should be all about, and if the new singing section plays a role in breeding the next generation of Palace fan, then it deserves to be backed rather than chastised.