EAGLES columnist SAM ROSS this week reflects on Crystal Palace’s dramatic recent transformation, one he hopes will finally silence Dougie Freedman’s minority of detractors.
IT is exactly a month since the season began and after two wins, including a derby victory over Charlton and a draw against a strong Nottingham Forest team, that terrible start to the campaign is almost forgotten.
After conceding nine goals in three games, the Eagles have now just conceded two in three and Dougie Freedman, as well as the rest of the coaching staff, must take a lot of credit.
But one player who has played a major role in the transition, which happened in a short about of time for a club supposedly in a rut, is Damien Delaney.
I’ll admit I was unsure about him when he signed, with his main attribute being his experience as a 31-year-old defender.
But it is no coincidence the defensive record has improved since his inclusion. He was rarely caught out in the game at The Valley and was at his best last night against one of the finest forwards in the league Billy Sharp, bar a lapse in concentration to allow Dexter Blackstock to equalise.
Joel Ward was handed a justified start over Darcy Blake last night after the Welshman’s performance on Friday.
Blake is solid in defence but has no desire to get forward and support Wilfried Zaha, something Ward does do.
The signing of Danny Gabbidon is to bring in more experience according to Freedman and while I accept that, I am not getting too excited by his arrival.
He will provide adequate cover for either Delaney or Paddy McCarthy, that is all.
In truth I have been struggling to work out how he managed to remain a Premier League player for so long.
Friday night’s derby win was massive for Palace, not just in terms of bragging rights over Charlton but for Freedman.
Aside from the terrible organisation at The Valley which saw most of the fans miss the start of the match, and the unnecessary coming together of both sets of fans after the game as they were let out at the same time, the win highlighted Freedman is the master of away derbies. Since taking charge he has only lost one away derby to QPR in 2011 and guided the Eagles to memorable wins at Brighton, Millwall and now Charlton, as well as frustrate West Ham at Upton Park.
I said last week I couldn't see many players rising to the derby occasion but I certainly underestimated Freedman's ability to get his side up for it.
On the pitch Delaney seemed the most pumped up, at one stage tormenting the Charlton fans, while Zaha was unplayable at times.
The Valley win, combined with last night's impressive display despite a disappointing draw, seems to have shut the Freedman haters up - for now anyway.
They certainly look a bit silly at the minute.
I know there is a long way to go but it is amazing what a derby win can do and Freedman certainly knows that more than anyone.
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