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Stoke win was a big three points in more ways than one for Eagles
12:41pm Wednesday 22nd January 2014 in Sport
EAGLES columnist WILL TAYLOR is the first to accept the win against Stoke wasn’t easy on the eye but reckons it could be a defining moment in Palace’s relegation battle.
SATURDAY’S 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Stoke won’t go down in history as a celebrated classic.
There was no tactical masterclass amidst an end-to-end slobberknocker, nor did it feature any goals worthy of uploading to YouTube.
In fact, I think they showed the highlights as part of the closing credits during Match of the Day.
Nevertheless, Palace gained more that day than just three valuable points. It was certainly more than three points for Jason Puncheon, who emerged from the endless ridicule of last week’s penalty miss to bag the winning goal.
His dogged resilience since the 12-yard calamity at White Hart Lane has seen him purposefully chase down every loose ball in search of redemption.
And in the 51st minute he pounced on Oussama Assaidi’s timid touch before calmly slotting a shot between the legs of Ryan Shawcross and into the far corner.
The relief on the midfielder’s face come full-time was an apt interpretation of the surrounding supporters who left Selhurst Park singing his name.
It was also more than three points for Tony Pulis, who could have easily lost focus upon witnessing the outpour of appreciation from the travelling Potters.
But he remained professional as ever, as did the Eagles’ defence, who have transformed from brittle backline into reliable rearguard ever since their new manager’s arrival.
It was more than three points for Steve Parish, who sat proudly up in stands and not on the sandy beaches of Barbados as had been reported in the national press.
And it was more than three points for those Palace pessimists, who saw the club surge from rock bottom to the dizzy heights of 16th and help relinquish their tag of relegation favourites, at least for this week.
This Saturday sees Wigan provide an unwelcome distraction in the FA Cup, but this could present the perfect audition for previously exiled players to worm their way into the new 25-man squad.
Aaron Wilbraham returned to action against Stoke and even though it seems he didn’t find any shooting boots in his Christmas stocking, Pulis will have been impressed by his physical presence as well as that outrageous dummy that nearly allowed Puncheon to double the scoreline.
The trip to the DW could also give Stephen Dobbie, Owen Garvan and Paddy McCarthy a chance to impress, while Jonny Williams and Sullay KaiKai may help convince Pulis that the youngsters can play a pivotal part in the second half of the season.
Palace are still finding the transfer market a baron and hostile place, with extortionate wage demands and interest from elsewhere scuppering every and any potential deal.
But fans must remain calm, this is a waiting game we are all accustomed to playing by now.
It’s often the case one transfer triggers several more and when the first domino falls, Palace must be ready to swoop with the same ruthless determination already evident on the pitch.
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