Crystal Palace 0-1 Millwall, 16/10/10
Palace manager George Burley cut a figure of a very frustrated man last Saturday as a host of missed chances and resolute defending meant more dropped points to London neighbours at home. Fresh from 2 weeks off after the international break, Burley’s side were more than ready having succumbed late on against leaders QPR in their last league game. But they weren’t beaten for the want of trying as the hosts had a handful of chances to grab more than a deserved point, but not to be as Burley afterwards spoke of the ‘disappointed faces in the dressing room who had put in a lot of hard work and endeavour’, but then hit the nail on the head when he mentioned the lack of end result that his team possessed.
Kenny Jackett had a similar opinion of the game, praising his side after a hard fought 3 points, and also touched on the importance of on-loan striker Theo Robinson who terrorised the Palace back line all day and had a well taken goal to show for his efforts. Jackett refused to speculate on whether any January activity involving Robinson would be carried out but nevertheless continued on to praise the tight finish from the youngster.
Property of Huddersfield (as of October)
And what a finish it was! A long ball from the defence, Steve Morison anticipated well and rose above Claude Davis to flick on. The ball landed in the empty space behind the Jamaican defender for Robinson to latch onto, 25 yards from goal. The Palace defence had been caught out but no matter, heroic ‘keeper Julian Speroni would thwart any likely goal threat. Or not, as a feeble attempt to close the onrushing striker failed miserably leaving Theo to round the custodian with ease. He still had a lot to do however as he had taken a heavy touch and had Paddy McCarthy for company, closing off most of the net. The hotshot somehow managed to produce a finish from an acute angle, between both posts and Palace captain to put the away side one up after 53 minutes and sent the 4800 Millwall lunatics into delirium.
Apologies for using the words Millwall and lunatics in the same sentence, you must already have taken my words out of context. I must say that their lot were extremely well behaved with regard to their reputation, chanting away in fantastic harmony with the home faithful. From my knowledge, there was no trouble in or outside the ground of major note as the police presence prevented any violence or crime superbly with the majority joining the applause in celebration of the life of Palace’s former manager, Malcolm Allison before kick-off.
But had the great man been watching the spectacle from above, he would surely not have been impressed. For all the tactical genius he incorporated in Palace’s famous FA Cup run of 1976, the current XI would probably fail to warm the bench in his time at Selhurst. The spirit shown by both Palace sides could well have been portrayed as a childrens spot the difference feature in the match-day programme. Currently adopting a rigid central midfield pairing of Owen Garvan and Andy Dorman, Palace lack the grit of many a Championship team. You could probably add a ‘t’ to the end of Andy’s name and get away with it! And with Pablo Counago practically living on a spot of the Selhurst turf, we look good value for 23rd in the table.
Big Mal would not have been pleased
But give credit where it’s due, Millwall defended as though football was simple. They took zero chances and gave Palace nothing as any threat was nodded behind or out of play for a set piece. This safety first method can be dangerous however, as shown when they were thumped 6-1 by a rampant Watford only weeks ago at home. But no such problems today as Palace forced corner after corner only to nod a single one against the thigh of returning defender Tony Craig. For Watford have a single attribute that Palace do not. Height. And even with Davis and Julian Bennett forwards, neither could get their heads near the ball before a Millwall one. Darren Ward would have done that all day if need be.
So with Millwall’s defensive weakness equalled by Palace’s attacking frailties, you may as well have gone home and frustrated the wife. But then you would have missed a first half wonder show by Palace’s Wilfried Zaha who simply stole the opening 45. With a bagful of tricks to dazzle defences and leave spectators in awe, he looks good value come January. At only 17, Premier League managers will be in contact with the clubs chairmen over necessary funds to purchase the young Ivorian. But unlike the usual over-confident arrogance shown by some wingers, Zaha achieves the end results to an extent. Following a stupendous heel flick, he can change his pace about as fast as Lewis Hamilton sets off of the line each Sunday and turn in a cross that begs to be dispatched. He will leave defenders with nightmares.
But sadly he will also leave the fans with similar night tremours having wasted 2 glorious chances to grab something from the match. His first, a fine run left him 12 yards out with hoards of defenders around him quickening his decision. With no other option than to strike with his weaker left peg, the shot skimmed the post and although not Halloween for a few weeks, the Palace fans broadcasted their zombie impression with hundreds of moans in anguish. His second one came from a bright run on the right only to finish in a rushed shot from the edge of the area that went high over David Forde’s goal.
It-zah kind of magic – alternative winning headline
Steve Morison has played the same amount of Championship games as Zaha but is doing a lot better this season as he continues to surprise the division he has adapted so well to. Previously leading the Stevenage Borough frontline, he would have capitalised on such semi-pro defending, similar to the type Palace were guilty of as he spurned a chance from 6 yards and then had a free header straight at Speroni in the second half. Regardless of those misses, he set up Scott Barron to drill unsuccessfully at Speroni and Theo Robinson to score the crucial goal.
Palace’s only other chances of note were when Paddy McCarthy couldn’t quite divert a superb through ball into the net from 6 yards out and late on, Counago selfishly shot from an uncompromising angle into the side netting. Other than that, Millwall either sat back and soaked up Palace pressure or dominated possession in midfield, pouncing on any loose balls with vigour. It became easier once the goal had been scored as Palace had the wind well and truly taken from their sails as the crowd went limp and Millwall astutely cleared up as though Carter was Juan Sheet in disguise.
The only consolation for Palace must be the stage of the season we are at, with defensive problems further hindered by a silly red card for Claude Davis late on for a kick at Scott Barron. Frustration clearly took over what questionable brain there is inside his skull as he trudged off for the second time this season and now misses 4 matches. The instability and disorganisation has been capitalised upon week after week as we clearly cannot cope with the strikers in this league. Loan signings cannot help as they make up most of our squad as our mainstays currently occupy the treatment room. Ambrose, Danns, Scannell, Wright and Hills at least have permanent spots for the upcoming months, albeit only at the Beckenham training ground, hurriedly being readied as much of our attack and flair is down to those guys. But once they return, at least time will be on our side to mount a comeback and fight for that 21st spot once again.
No Darren, Neil or Sean to provide our goals and put away those despairing misses!
p.s. apologies about the timing of this article, I have been short for time recently!