Review by Richard Foster (Twitter: @rcfoster)
It was a depressingly familiar tale against Everton on Saturday and the statistics are beginning to take on a rather ominous look. This was the third time in the last four league matches at Selhurst that Palace have conceded the winning goal after the 87th minute. The problem with such a trait is that it deflates the team, undermines the confidence and gives very little chance of responding. The fact that yet another home defeat consigned Palace to the bottom three after Swansea’s remarkable win at Anfield, and confirmed the worst home record in the Premier League – having lost 73% of our home matches and eked out a paltry 7 points from 11 games – gives much food for thought.
Just one win in 16 league games does not make for happy reading, and Sam Allardyce’s expected impact has not quite materialised. With a solitary point from his first five games, it’s not exactly the return we all anticipated from the New Manager Bounce, which both Swansea and Hull have benefited from. Whilst the team look better organised in the 3-5-2 formation deployed against Everton, there was still a lack of any real threat and very few clear-cut chances. Being better drilled defensively is a good sign but it still did not deliver the required clean sheet, despite some excellent saves from Wayne Hennessey in the first half.
The game itself started well, with Christian Benteke’s header clipping the bar as the Belgian benefited from having a strike partner in Loic Remy – who showed equal amounts of understandable rustiness and undoubted class. However, when Remy was withdrawn in the second half, much of the verve was lost and Everton started to take control of the game. Yohan Cabaye – who had one of his best games of the season – was also substituted, which led to Palace surrendering the midfield battle, as the impressive pairing of Ross Barkley and Tom Davies began to dictate.
Naturally, much of the post-match commentary centred on the injury to Jeffrey Schlupp, who was prone on the ground at the opposite end of the ground when Seamus Coleman eventually exploited the gap on our left hand side, to ram home the winner. Many fans complained that either the referee or Everton themselves should have halted play to allow Schlupp to be treated, but having rolled back on to the pitch there was less of a case. What was incontrovertible however was that Coleman was marginally offside when Davies played the ball to him but yet again Palace were at the wrong end of the decision – another bugbear of this difficult season.
On the balance of play Everton just about deserved their victory, but a draw would not have been out of the question until that late lapse. On the positive side, Schlupp had an impressive full debut showing that his pace will be an asset; Joel Ward fitted into the role of wing back with an accomplished performance; and as mentioned earlier, the French duo of Remy and Cabaye did well. Unfortunately, we have reached the stage of the season when results matter more than the level of performance and without a significant change in direction, relegation looms horribly large.