FACup, 3rd Round
FT 90 +8
Referee : Lee Mason
Attendance : 30,763
Crystal Palace 48%
Crystal Palace 5
Crystal Palace 3
Crystal Palace 3
Crystal Palace 6
Southampton v Crystal Palace
St.Mary’s, Saturday 9th January 2016
> One Shot On Target In First Half
> Much Improved In Second Half
> Storming Last Ten Minutes, Too Little, Too Late
I’m a fan of the FA Cup, yes I know we’re always being told that it doesn’t matter any more and that it’s lost its magic, but it hasn't for me. Sometimes I wonder if all that nonsense comes from the fact that SKY don’t have the rights to show it, so therefore they (and the Murdoch owned papers) have decided that it isn’t important any more? But my love of football started in the 1970’s, and I sat in front of the TV and watched Sunderland beat Leeds, Ipswich beat Arsenal and, in 1980 West Ham beat Arsenal. The underdogs were able to have their day in the sun and it was great. Right in the middle of all that I was at Wembley in 1976; the feeling of being in that crowd and seeing the ball hit the back of the net will stay with me forever. So, I always look forward to the third round, the round when upsets can happen and teams from the top division can get beaten by teams from much lower down the football pyramid. So I was happy to have drawn Palace; true they would be much more difficult to beat, but also we should know all about them. Plus, if we lost it wouldn’t feel as embarrassing as if we were knocked out by, say, Eastleigh.
Walking through town before the game I saw Yates and Backwater sitting down to eat, I did think about banging on the window and waving at them, but decided they probably wanted to enjoy their family meal undisturbed. I did take it as a good omen, though. What could possibly go wrong now?
Taking my seat it was nice to see the usual replica shirt wearing moaner who usually sits behind me was not there. The people sitting in those seats didn’t seem to have English as a first language, but even when they spoke in their native tongue they made more sense than the usual boring gits who sit there.
The line up was puzzling, I’m not sure why we went with 5 at the back, but I’m no tactical expert and take the view that Ronald and his team spend all week with the squad and do their homework and analysis, so I didn’t spend too much time fretting about it.
We started well enough, Mané and Long looking lively early on, but as the half went on there seemed to be a lack of movement. Players were not making space for themselves, or each other and uncharacteristically giving the ball away with sloppy passes. After one overhit pass from Mané a bloke in front blew his top, he really was quite angry, shouting that Mané was crap and he wouldn’t pay sixty quid for him let along £60 million (he also pronounced his name “Main”). From that point on he got angrier and angrier throughout the game, and the only thing that made him smile was when news came through that Eastleigh had gone in front against Bolton.
Two rows in front of him was a younger guy who obviously got the “How To Be A Modern Football Fan” handbook for Christmas. All the textbook cliches were there and I guess he was one of those who usually attends matches in the Northam end and had to move because of the increased allocation for Palace fans for cup games.
The first half continued and we kept hitting long balls which, surprise surprise, didn’t work. Then with their first real attack, Puncheon picked off a sloppy ball from Steven Davis and ran unopposed into our area, he laid the ball off to Ward, who fired home to make it 1-0.
The rest of the first half wasn’t very good, and we seemed to lose our way; we never really got hold of the ball to produce anything creative, and ten minutes after their goal Palace had another attack and should have scored again, but an unmarked Scott Dann headed wide.
The angry man in front then seemed to get an ally in his moaning, as another guy two seats from him started joining in with his ranting at the team, complaining about how these “internationals” couldn’t control a ball and didn’t know what they were doing. When the half time whistle went the modern football fan stood up and booed, which is what modern football fans must do if their team is losing at half time I guess.
Tadić and Juanmi were doing more intensive warm ups during the break, and I was pleased to see Juanmi come on at the start of the second half (Yoshida went off and we went back to four at the back). I have adopted Juamni as my favourite player and so I saw this as a sign that we would put our troubles behind us and win the game with a scintillating second half display.
We did start the second half much better than we’d finished the first, and went on the attack. Within five minutes we were level, Romeu and Juanmi played a nice one-two, Romeu then fed Martina in the area, who’s powerful shot was blocked by the keeper’s outstretched arm and Romeu, who had continued his run, scored from the rebound. It was a lovely, fast, incisive passing move that showed how well we can play. It was 1-1 and my spirits had been lifted. Modern football fan stood up, on his own, and did the “who are ya?” pointy thing towards the Palace fans at the other end of the ground, causing several others, mostly elderly fans, to join in.
After the goal, instead of building on the momentum we took our foot off the pedal and started to drop deeper, inviting pressure. Just after the hour mark Fraizer Campbell chased a ball that Saints had given up on, thinking it was going out for a goal kick. Campbell not only kept it in, but laid it to Puncheon who easily went past Tadić and fired in a shot from the edge of the area which Stekelenburg parried high into the air, rather than away, and as it dropped Zaha volleyed it in to make it 2-1.
At one point there was a strong smell of smoke in the Chapel end, although there was no visible indication that something was wrong. It caused people to stand up and look worried. It smelled more like a flare to me, but there was nothing to see and although the stewards started rushing about, and I did briefly wonder if was going to escalate and we’d be evacuated, it came to nothing and the smell went away as quickly as it had appeared.
As the time ticked away we finally decided to rouse ourselves and Juanmi had a shot well saved. The angry man and his sidekick (who now had found another 'friend') moaned like hell when Ward-Prowse came on for Clasie on 75 minutes, and the modern football fan stood up and berated the ref for what he thought was a foul by a Palace player. It wasn’t. Oddly he had remained seated the times that the ref had allowed Palace to push and pull and kick our players, while penalising us for similar offences. I was getting worried that the angry man was going to have a heart attack.
The game was now being played in the Palace half, and we had a series of corners. Fonte had a header deflected over the bar, Long hit the post and Mané headed over while Ward-Prowse had a good free kick well saved by Hennessey (I thought it was going in), but it wasn’t enough and after almost 7 minutes of added on time the game finished.
We’d had more of the ball and more shots on target but could’t make any of that count and individual mistakes allowed Palace, who only had three shots on target all game, to send their 5000 noisy fans home happy.
There’s always next year.
10th January 2016
03 Yoshida (Juanmi - 45' )
17 van Dijk
08 Davis (Tadic - 45' )
04 Clasie (Ward-Prowse - 76' )
10 Mané Booked
07 Long Booked
22 Mutch (Sako - 57' )
28 Ledley Booked
07 Cabaye (Jedinak - 83' )
09 Campbell (Chamakh - 76' )
14 Lee Chung-yong