Date: 2 February 2016
I’ve often been known to remark that a good night out was spoilt by the match result; but tonight the opposite applied!
Two packed trains out of Clapham Junction that I physically couldn’t board; then a packed pub at Thornton Heath that I had to queue to enter (waiting for someone to leave); then a bar so crowded that I was advised not to even try buying a pint; and then the football stadium with the worst view (for away fans) I’ve ever experienced! A quarter of the pitch was completely obscured, while the remaining three-quarters could only be partly seen (by bobbing around and trying to see around the people in front). And the large screen was obscured by a camera gantry. This wasn’t a case of me being unlucky; the whole away stand was like this. “Sh*t ground no view” was one of the most repeated chants this evening.
In fact, once again we out-sang the home supporters. In addition to the above chant we offered our usual repertoire (“We’ve come from League Two”, “We’ve got the Special One”, “We score when we want”, etc.); plus some songs specially tailored for the occasion (“Marc Pugh’s too good for you” and – aimed specifically at Zaha – “He’s gonna cry in a minute”).
There were no surprises at all in our starting line-up, given Stanislas’ injury. And we made few changes in the course of the game: Grabban for Ritchie and King for Afobe both occurring late on and both being straight swops. The game was fast and furious, very much end-to-end, and there were a lot of periods in which Palace dominated. But we were helped by Palace’s appalling finishing in front of goal, as well as the fact that Boruc once again made some great saves. Arter managed some good forward runs, but often couldn’t find anyone to pass to and in any case on the night his distribution was below par. Also, he was yet again arguing with the referee about absolutely everything and – as in the home game against Norwich – it was Drew Surman who had the task of pulling him away each time.
Apparently we haven’t come from behind to win in the League this season (though of course we did so in the Cup only last week). So it was great that that was exactly what happened tonight. Zaha crossed to Dann who scored from close range following a set-piece in the 27th minute (1-0); but just six minutes later Daniels passed to Pugh, who twisted and turned before shooting and scoring with his less favoured foot: his right (1-1). Fortunately I was in a perfect position to see that goal, despite missing the pass that had led to it. In the second half, the Cherries were attacking the goal nearest to us – so we could see more easily. And no-one missed the winning goal, when a Ritchie shot was parried, but Afobe nodded the ball home from the rebound. 1-2.
This second Cherries’ goal was scored in the 57th minute, so we had to endure a very tense final half hour. By time-added-on, we were all whistling for the game to finish. And there had been a slight scare six minutes before the end of normal time when a Smith challenge on a Palace player – who as in sight of goal – could easily have earned him a red card but he was fortuitously only given a yellow. He needs to be more careful in future. Nonetheless, the scenes of celebration at the end won’t be forgotten for a long time; and the players all came to celebrate with us, with the last plaudits being directed at Artur Boruc.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Smith (7), Francis (7), Cook (7), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (6), Gosling (7), Arter (6), Pugh (8);