Review by Will Eldridge (Twitter: @willgeorgejourn)
Second-bottom Crystal Palace were beaten for a sixth time in eight Premier League matches under Sam Allardyce, as Joe Allen’s second-half strike condemned them to a 1-0 defeat at Stoke.
Palace were in considerable need of a boost a week on from the humiliating 4-0 home loss to basement boys Sunderland. But instead they found themselves on the end of another defeat, after Allen fired into the bottom corner in the 67th minute, following good work from Ramadan Sobhi.
Allardyce’s men – who rarely threatened – remain two points adrift of 17th-placed Swansea and 16th-placed Leicester, whose game in hand over Palace comes when they play each other at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday. Stoke, meanwhile, are up two places to ninth.
Palace goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey – who was beaten four times before half-time on his last outing – produced a decent save in the ninth minute, when he got down to block a strike from the edge of the box by Marko Arnautovic. And the visitors then registered their first goal-scoring attempt eight minutes later, when Townsend delivered a cross and James McArthur headed wide.
A shot at the Stoke goal from Patrick van Aanholt followed, which Lee Grant dealt with comfortably. And it was in fact the hosts who were applying more pressure, with Peter Crouch and Allen sending headers off-target, and Arnautovic seeing another low effort saved by Hennessey. Mark Hughes’ men then almost had the lead in the last few moments of the first half, as Martins Indi nodded a corner goalwards, with Townsend getting there to make the last-ditch clearance.
Nine minutes into the second half, the ball squirmed through to Palace frontman Christian Benteke in front of the goal, via a Jason Puncheon shot. But the Belgian was unable to react quickly enough, and the danger passed. The game then went into something of a lull, before the deadlock was broken when Arnautovic’s long ball forward was held up well by Sobhi. He then provided the tee-up, from which Allen drilled into the corner.
Palace struggled to muster much in their search for an equaliser, with a shot from James Tomkins and late free-kick from Townsend both being blazed into the stand. And at the other end, Stoke substitute Ibrahim Afellay was almost played in by an attempted one-two with Arnautovic, but was beaten to the return pass by the out-rushing Hennessey.