By Matthew Collins

CRYSTAL Palace may have crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday at holders Wigan but the game did at least provide one positive – the long-awaited return of skipper Paddy McCarthy.

The defender revealed he was not told by Tony Pulis he would be playing until the night before the 2-1 defeat, having completed only 80 minutes for the U21 side last Monday.

But the Irishman lasted the full 90 at the DW Stadium and although the cup dream is over, McCarthy will be looking to play his part between now and the end of campaign to make sure Palace beat the drop and retain their Premier League status, starting with tomorrow's home date with Hull.

He said: “It’s great to be back in the mix, it’s been a hell of a long time and frustrating “To get 90 minutes back under my belt is good but I can take no pleasure out of being beaten.

“I felt good, I’ve taken care of myself and never really worried about the fitness side of things and kept on top of that.

“It was never going to be an issue, it was just my body letting me down.”

McCarthy added: “We’ve got something like 16 more cup games, starting at home against Hull on Tuesday night and then away against Arsenal at the weekend.

“To be honest, the mood in the camp is good and we fancy ourselves against anyone at the moment as we’re in good form.

“But yes, Hull is a big one.”

McCarthy’s sentiments were echoed by Cameron Jerome, who was rather harshly booked before being replaced by Palace’s goal scorer Aaron Wilbraham.

The striker said: “We’ve got some big games coming up, 16 of them.

“If we want to stay in the Premier League we need to keep playing well.

“In the January transfer window the boss will look to strengthen.

“You have to see competition as a good thing if it makes the side stronger.”

Palace will feel aggrieved they didn’t get the chance to secure a replay after Dwight Gayle was seemingly tugged back by Emmerson Boyce.

The striker’s penalty claims were ignored, prompting boss Pulis to claim his side had not got the rub of the green from the officials.

“We’re disappointed not to get something out of the game,” the manager said.

“We came to have a go and tried to win the game.

“When you play in cup ties you need certain decisions to go your way.

“One or two decisions didn't go our way but that is what happens.”

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