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O'Keefe's Chelsea display should inspire Pulis to give youth a chance
3:35pm Tuesday 17th December 2013 in Sport
EAGLES columnist WILL TAYLOR is hoping Stuart O’Keefe’s impressive substitute appearance at Chelsea will prompt Tony Pulis to give more young players a chance.
PALACE fans have grown accustomed to searching for positives in defeat, especially since returning to the Premier League.
The club excels as the underdog rather than thriving as the top dog because genuine expectation seems to precede inevitable disappointment.
Nevertheless, there has always been a flicker of hope illuminating the prospect of survival this season, a belief which has become far more rational and pragmatic since the arrival of Tony Pulis.
The fight, hunger and spirit which resulted in promotion is once again in full flow throughout the squad and even though we suffered defeat against Chelsea on Saturday, we did so in the best way possible.
This was another performance worthy of praise, both on the pitch and in the stands, as passion and tenacity served up an enticing 90-minute spectacle.
Chelsea may have dominated possession but they found their desired route to goal through the middle bereft of space.
It was only when the lively Eden Hazard and keen-to-impress Willian drifted wide that Jose Mourinho's men looked capable of piercing our resolute rearguard.
Indeed, the opening goal arrived when the Brazilian playmaker broke free from Mile Jedinak's clutches and let fly from the edge of the area.
Julian Speroni managed to palm the ball onto the post but as the back four remained static, Fernando Torres pounced and gleefully tucked the rebound home.
This was to be another example of how a split-second stutter will be punished by even the most under-performing strikers in the league.
However, shortly after Palace were level thanks to Marouane Chamakh and his newfound desire to hustle players and win back possession high up the pitch.
The Moroccan robbed Torres deep in his own half before kick-starting a quick-fire attack which ended with him sweeping the ball home just ten seconds later.
Ramires restored Chelsea's lead with a sweet strike before half-time, but Palace emerged from the break eager to snatch a point their determination definitely deserved.
Damien Delaney should have troubled Petr Cech with three unmarked headers before super sub Stuart O'Keefe was denied by the despairing lunges of John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
After the game Pulis praised the efforts of ‘little Stuart’, a player who has triumphed yet again after being granted extended leave from the bench.
Just as in the play-off final, O'Keefe replaced the injured Kagisho Dikgacoi and began dismantling the opposition with a series of snappy tackles and constant harrying.
It served as a nice reminder faith in youthful exuberance can reap rewards and will hopefully convince Pulis to gift more opportunities to fellow gifted youngsters Jose Campana and Jonny Williams over a busy winter period.
Aside from the scoreline, there was one other negative aspect that cropped up several times last Saturday.
Pulis’ insistence that Adrian Mariappa should utilise his long throw whenever he advanced into the final third provided a flashback to the Rory Delap rocket which proved so successful with Stoke.
However, I am struggling to remember a single example where such tactics proved effective at the Bridge.
Very few deliveries reached those loitering near the six-yard box and those that did were rebuffed with relative ease by the superb Terry.
A quick glance around the division this week sees clubs hitting the panic button before handing out P45s as if they were Christmas cards.
This is pertinent reminder of how lucky we are to have the current chairman and board of directors at the helm.
Steve Parish and co attracted a barrage of criticism during their prolonged managerial search, but I am truly grateful they are not so easily swayed by the inevitable pocket of supporters who cry for drastic change after very defeat.
Such supporters would have gladly dismissed Alan Pardew earlier this season, whose Newcastle side are now flourishing amidst their French revolution.
The Toon Army descend upon Selhurst Park this weekend but despite our recent resurgence at home, I do fear for those who are expecting another three points...
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