Block G Report: Crystal Palace 1 – 4 Fulham

By - Tuesday 22nd October, 2013

Alarm bells ringing on and off the pitch

Ah. Nobody said it was easy, as gloomy Coldplay frontman Chris Martin once warbled.

I don’t think many Palace fans expected a home game against Fulham to be so hard however. The home team’s supreme form in evening games at Selhurst Park in recent years was dismantled by their London rivals, through two outstanding goals, and two more which the Eagles will be very disappointed in conceding.

The match started with a great deal of promise, Palace taking the lead early on through Adrian Mariappa’s header from a fine cross by Jason Puncheon. The home team maintained control for the first twenty minutes, with the confidence which had been missing since the home win against Sunderland at the end of August showing signs of returning; Dwight Gayle having a shot on target, and returning fan favourite Yannick Bolasie making his trademark surging runs. Unfortunately, the fun was to end there.

Not that any Palace player could really be blamed for Pajtim Kasami’s astonishing goal. The Swiss midfielder’s sublime touch to control before firing a dipping volley from a narrow angle over a gymnastic Julian Speroni will likely be at the very peak of the goal of the season contenders. Rarely does such a good goal come around, and it may have reminded Palace fans of former legend/villain Dougie Freedman’s effort against Sunderland some nine years previous.

Alarm bells were now ringing in everyone’s ears. Literally in this case, as the executive boxes in the Whitehorse Lane end of the ground had to be evacuated after a fire alert. Eagles fans’ ears were ringing again moments before half time, as a silly challenge from the otherwise excellent Bolasie led to a freekick on the edge of the box, which the home defence failed to deal with adequately. The ball fell to former Chelsea man Steve Sidwell, who lashed an excellent first time volley into the top corner, Speroni not even daring to move. Goal of the season contender number two, and Palace 2-1 down at the break – despite arguably having the upper hand.

Fulham’s third goal was a comedy of errors; Speroni booted the ball into Dimitar Berbatov’s backside

And then everything fell apart. While many expected Crystal Palace to come out fighting in the second half, there was no real sense of urgency from a side in a game in which manager Ian Holloway had claimed “wasn’t must win.” Every game for Palace this season should be seen as must win, particularly against sides such as Fulham whom the south Londoners should be targeting three points from. Fulham’s third goal was a comedy of errors; Speroni booted the ball into Dimitar Berbatov’s backside, the ball dropping kindly to Darren Bent, through on goal. Somehow the ex-Eagle target contrived to miss, with full credit to Speroni for making an excellent save. The Argentine’s mistake was eventually punished however as Bulgarian Berbatov nodded in from the resulting corner.

Palace became more and more insipid as the half wore on. As former Arsenal player Philippe Senderos bundled in the west Londoners’ fourth five minutes later, the fear was that Fulham were going to rack up five or six. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was not that Palace were poor, but rather it appeared there was a lack of commitment, even effort from some of the players. Of course they were trying, but confidence was disintegrating and the luck was running against Palace. Referee Lee Mason hardly covered himself in glory when failing to award a spot kick after a challenge on Damien Delaney, and Gayle was flagged offside after slotting the ball into the net in the aftermath. A tiny minority of the Palace support hardly covered themselves in glory in response, showering the pitch with plastic bottles.

A few half chances for either team and that was that. The home team are now buried deeper into the relegation mire, with Fulham pulling clear. It’s Arsenal up next on Saturday for the Eagles, and they must improve – fast – if they are to avoid a hiding. Rumours circulated after the game that manager Holloway’s tenure was at an end, but they soon disappeared. Just as well, as the only way Palace are to haul themselves into a position of safety is through consistency and cool heads.

Positives? Well, Sunderland are worse. The Mackems, Norwich and Cardiff all conceded four goals at the weekend, as Crystal Palace did last night. West Ham United and Stoke City are also well within touching distance. One must remember Palace played promisingly before half-time, and were it not for wonder goals would have been ahead. However, the early season optimism has now gone and Palace must grind out some results as winter starts to settle. If Palace can now position themselves as in a mini-league from 15th to 20th, then the target – 17th – looks more realistic. Just because we’re losing, doesn’t mean we’ve lost, as Chris Martin might sing. Gloomily.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey; Jedinak, O’Keefe, Campana (Thomas, 45′); Bolasie, Puncheon (Chamakh, 56′), Gayle (Phillips, 69′).

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland (Amorebieta, 45′), Richardson; Sidwell, Parker, Kasami; Ruiz, Bent (Duff, 77′), Berbatov (Rodallega, 90′).

Goals: Crystal Palace 1 (Mariappa 7′) Fulham 4 (Kasami 19′, Sidwell 45′, Berbatov 50′, Senderos 55′).

Attendance: 24,881

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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