Block G Report: Crystal Palace 1 – 0 West Ham United

By - Wednesday 4th December, 2013

Crystal Palace’s recent resurgence continued with a win over their east London neighbours

There may have been a few doubts still lingering around South London about Tony Pulis’ appointment as Palace manager ten days ago. This victory for the Eagles, at times far more convincing than the scoreline suggests, underlines what many were expecting from the former Stoke leader; it was direct on occassion, but the passion, belief and spirit has demonstrably been restored – with the help of caretaker manager Keith Millen – to a team which looked relegation certainties less than a month ago. If Palace can maintain their mean defence of recent games, with only one goal conceded in the previous four, then there will be considerably more of these raucous nights under the Selhurst lights.

From kick-off, with Pulis having kept to the same lineup which lost narrowly to Norwich City at the weekend, there was a sense of urgency about the Eagles to get the ball forward. Little was seen of the meandering, cautious passing around the defence which had been a hallmark of Ian Holloway’s managerial reign; instead, the ball was moved quickly up the pitch, either directly from defence to attack or through the midfield, where the lively Barry Bannan once again demonstrated how key he is becoming to this Palace side,  the diminutive Scotsman having had an instrumental role in Palace’s return to form.

However, it was West Ham who had the edge in the first half. The Irons, with manager Sam Allardyce sharing the same reputation as his counterpart for direct football, were better in keeping the ball, with the Palace midfield too eager to give it away at times. The away side took advantage of this to create several opportunities; a cleverly worked free-kick by Mark Noble on the half hour mark saw the ball chipped over the wall into the path of Kevin Nolan, whose weak volley couldn’t trouble Julian Speroni. Mohamed Diame saw a header clear the bar, and Carlton Cole, whilst having few chances of his own, was a menace to the Palace defence, hardly a surprise given his height and presence.

It was Palace that took the initiative against the run of play though. With half time looming, a good run and shot by Joel Ward from right back led to a Bannan corner, which despite being  a rather weak attempt, found its way back to the Scotsman, who whipped in a considerably more dangerous ball. Marouane Chamakh, much maligned by the media so far this season, found a gap and his header was clinical, evading Jussi Jaaskelainen and two flailing Hammers defenders to find the back of the net. Cue bedlam in the noisy Selhurst crowd, and for Chamakh, the considerable satisfaction of scoring against a club where he had found himself discarded by Allardyce during an ill-fated loan spell last season.

The Eagles reached half time ahead, but were yet to really convince as deserved leaders. That certainly wasn’t the case in the second half.

[Jerome]evaded James Collins and found himself with only Jaaskelainen to beat

So often during Holloway’s reign, Palace had come out after half time looking drained and dispirited. In sharp contrast, Pulis’ teamtalk galvanised the Eagles and confidence exuded from the south Londoners after the break. Chances piled up for Palace, and the only frustration in the second half was that the score should have been greater.

Firstly, Jaaskelainen had to be at his very best as he leapt at full stretch to prevent a shot from Jason Puncheon, after Cameron Jerome had broken through and behind the Irons’ defence, the ball falling first to Chamakh in front of goal before the Moroccan passed to Puncheon. Kagisho Dikgacoi really should have put Palace two goals to the good from the resulting corner, the midfielder finding hismelf unmarked with all the goal to aim at – his header instead flew a foot over the bar.

Palace were really on top now; the crowd could sense the players’ belief and the noise rose to great levels. The roof would have surely lifted off the Holmesdale Road stand had Jerome scored minutes later. The striker, on loan from Pulis’ former club Stoke, evaded James Collins and found himself with only Jaaskelainen to beat. However, a lack of confidence was evident as the ‘keeper was more than equal to Jerome’s tame finish; a shame as his hardworking performance deserved a goal.

Both sides then saw goals disallowed; West Ham fans’ celebrations, for a Stewart Downing shot which found the net, proved to be premature as there had been a foul on Chamakh in the build-up; similarly Palace fans cheers for a Jimmy Kebe shot were misguided, with the assistant raising a flag.

As the game wore on, it was the away team which once again dominated the ball. However, Speroni only had one save to make of note from a direct free-kick, and Palace had the better of the chances with a firm Dikgacoi drive comfortably saved by Jaaskelainen and Kebe shooting over when it would have been easier to score. Despite a nervy ending, with six minutes of injury time being played, Palace held on to record their third victory of the season and move off the bottom of the table. Ugly scenes ensued at the end, as the Irons’ Ravel Morrison appeared to strike Ward, but nothing would prevent the Palace players and fans from savouring the moment.

With Cardiff City up next, Palace have a real chance to claim back-to-back victories in the top flight for the first time since October 2004.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Puncheon (Kebe, 66′), Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan (O’Keefe, 82′); Chamakh (Williams, 85′); Jerome.

West Ham United: Jaaskelainen; O’Brien, Collins, Tomkins, Rat (McCartney, 78′); Morrison, Noble, Nolan (J. Cole, 58′), Diame, Downing; C. Cole (Maiga, 58′).

Goals: Crystal Palace 1 (Chamakh, 42′) West Ham United 0.

Attendance: 23,891.

Referee: L. Mason

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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