This evening's performance was simply not good enough. Alan Pardew got the tactics all wrong but our team were out-run, out-fought and out-thought.
Plan A for this vitally important derby match was "go for the 0-0 draw." Plan B was "go for the 1-1 draw." Alan Pardew promised changes after the disappointments of Saturday but we didn't really get any. Yes Andy Gray was dropped to the bench to accommodate Ambrose as a fifth man in the midfield but playing negatively 4-5-1 away from home appears to be the norm. It was uninspiring to watch and our players looked equally uninspired as we struggled against a string of well-taken Palace corners in the first half which threatened to unhinge us. That we stood firm until half-time was largely due to a resolute back four and dozens of anywhere-will-do clearances. When we did get the ball out of our half we appeared to be under orders not to get more than three players in their half, so it was no wonder that our only chance on goal was a Bouazza burst and shot which Speroni pushed away. Palace should have been one-up at the break but Weaver made a superb save from ten yards after the best move of the half.
The second period started just as the first and it was really only a case of could Palace score. Kelly Youga began to misplace passes down the line again and we were looking ragged in the middle. Carle and Watson saw far more of the ball than any of our players and Victor Moses looked like the wing threat we didn't possess. The inevitable goal came just after the hour as on-loan Craig Beattie rose at the back post to knock a header back past the stranded Nicky Weaver.
Time for Plan B and a triple substition of Gray, Zheng Zhi and Todorov came on at the expense of Holland, Ambrose and Sam. No loss those three; Ambrose ran around looking busy, I can't recall Holland touching the ball and Lloyd Sam played with his back to goal throughout. We immediately switched to 4-4-2 and began to look remotely capable of scoring a goal. It didn't come and frankly we didn't deserve it.
The 2700 travelling Addicks made plenty of noise and played their part but we were let down by the manager and the team. Alan Pardew's post-match comments are just as poor this evening. He says their goal looked offside (not to me it didn't, although you can see the excellent view I had of it for £30) and he's again talking of making "one or two" changes. Presumably that's to start with Gray upfront and revert to four in midfield. He then goes on to say we need to put a run together or we "might find ourselves in trouble." Alan, we are already in trouble. What's more, you really need to be more positive away from home. We are not playing at the Emirates, Stamford Bridge or Anfield anymore. It's the Keepmoat, Deepdale and Selhurst Park. Your lack of confidence in our ability to match-up to our opponents over 90 minutes away from home is extremely worrying and it looks like it's affected the players as well.
Two months ago you were telling us we had the personel to mount a serious promotion challenge this season but your behaviour simply doesn't support that view. The pressure is on for Saturday and you have no-one to blame but yourself. You need your boys to dig you out of a hole now or it's going to get a lot deeper. I will be there on Saturday as usual but I suspect it will be a long time before I will feel like making the effort to go to my next away game. My bet is on Ipswich to take the lead on Saturday and start the boo-boys off.