What Did We Learn From The Draw With West Ham?
A good fight back at Selhurst Park in what was a second half onslaught against the Hammers, but what did we learn from the draw in the London derby?
1. As many have said already, ’twas a game of two halves, but only because Palace spent the first half wiping the sleep from their eyes and allowing West Ham’s movement to pull them out of position like a puppet-master manipulating his props. By the end of the second, however, the home side had converted just one of 25 attempts on goal when on another day they might have scored four or five. Palace’s sheer dominance in the second half rendered West Ham’s edge in the first a distant memory, and the Eagles can now add the East Londoners to a long list of teams who have somehow escaped Selhurst Park this season with a point.
2. Max Meyer needs to start home games, especially now that Roy Hodgson is beginning to favour three in midfield. If a front three of Christian Benteke (or Michy Batshuayi), Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend is enough to strike fear into Premier League defences, one can only imagine that a midfield of James McArthur, Jeffrey Schlupp and Luka Milivojevic has the opposite effect. That isn’t to say that each of those players don’t possess their own qualities – Schlupp, in particular, showed his against West Ham – but none are renowned for their ability to unpick defences. Meyer’s 15-minute cameo proved that he can be the difference between creating a half-chance and a gaping one; it’s time to let him show it on a more regular basis.
3. Martin Kelly is Palace’s Mr Reliable. There were a few murmurs of discontent when the team line ups revealed that the former Liverpool man would be stepping in for James Tomkins ahead of Scott Dann, but the 28-year-old’s performance was indicative of why Hodgson now favours him over his more senior teammate. Kelly looked composed on the ball, was strong in the air and his perfectly-timed tackle on Michail Antonio was that of a man whose confidence has only grown over the past 12 months.
4. Saturday demonstrated the value – for both teams – of having a competent shot-stopper in goal. Vicente Guaita might have given away West Ham’s penalty in a moment of last-ditch desperation, but Palace could have been out of the game even before Mark Noble’s spot-kick had the Spaniard not kept out close-range efforts from both Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass. Łukasz Fabiański, meanwhile, proved that he is criminally underrated when it comes to conversations over the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, and the Pole – along with Palace’s wastefulness – was the principal reason it took the Eagles so long to find an equaliser. From a Palace perspective, although it’s been clear for a while now, it’s reassuring to finally have a goalkeeper you can rely on making big saves in big moments.
5. That was some performance by Craig Pawson, and by that I mean it was bloody abysmal. I usually refrain from passing comment on the men with the whistle because it tends to be a fruitless exercise, but in a week when the spotlight has been well and truly on Premier League referees, Pawson did nothing to subdue suggestions that there is too much inconsistency in the way games are being officiated. Palace could have no complaints about the penalty, but have every right to feel aggrieved for Pawson’s inability to award free kicks to the home side in situations that mirrored identical incidents where they had been penalised. There is no doubt that players can cross the line with their abuse of referees, but when they’re on the receiving end of one appalling decision after another it’s understandable that – in some cases – frustrations eventually boil over. The only saving grace was that Pawson’s ineptitude was so great that he failed to show Milivojevic a second yellow for scything down Mark Noble *claps sarcastically*.