I once saw the Palace score four goals away from home
An eighties indie anthem beloved by John Peel, I Ludicrous’s Presposterous Tales contains the line, “and I once saw the Palace score four goals away from home”, an impossible to imagine event conjured up by a fantasist who has also appeared on Crackerjack at the age of ten, won every game of trivial pursuit he has ever taken part in, and spent the new year at Captain Sensible’s Den. In a Didcot pub before last night’s match, we reflected on said ditty and the unlikelihood of this happening again, especially after the south London club’s tonking by Doncaster on Saturday and their current inability to cough up wages for their players. I hadn’t counted on Victor Moses, nor the selectorial and tactical ineptitude of Brendan Rodgers.
Palace lined up with a fluid 4-4-3, mutating into 4-5-1 formation. Conventional across the back line, Danny Butterfield struggled against the pace of Jobi McAnuff in an unfamiliar left back position, before Neil Warnock cannily swapped him with the highly promising Nathaniel Clyne late in the first half; the former having already garnered attention following a swashbuckling run and unerring shot to put the Eagles 1-0 to the good (how odd then that this was only his fourth start of the season). Behind, and even if he isn’t the best keeper in the division as his manager claims, Julian Speroni caught everything and Jose Fonte and Clint Hill formed a relatively assured rearguard although they are far from watertight as a unit – the latter has a deserved reputation as one of the more uncompromising defenders in the league.
The occasionally malign presence of Shaun Derry will always lead to a congested midfield and Austrian Johannes Ertl matches the silver haired battler in style, albeit in a decidedly ungainly way. The inconsistent Neil Danns played in advance of his duo and had a tremendous game, full of clever passing and sparky runs. Darren Ambrose, amazingly released by Charlton and amazingly still only 25, confirmed his pulsating vein of form in a wide right role that gave him licence to roam, even if Adam Federici should have kept out his fizzing shot. But in midfield, it was Moses who was the catalyst.
The eighteen year old, who only came to the UK from Nigeria seven years ago, confirmed his outrageous talent with two coruscating strikes: a lob of perfection to cap a mad ending to the first period and a weaving run and curling shot at the death to confirm the 4-2 win. Post match, Warnock was quick to suggest that the braided one will move on in the transfer window and this does seem inevitable given how much his employers need the money. His efforts and those of Ambrose were rewarded by a hard working display from Calvin Andrew, making a first start of the campaign and looking far superior to usual first choice Alan Lee, a player who I have seen play on numerous occasions going back to his Rotherham days and yet never seen to jump fairly for the ball. Reading were the softest of soft touches on the night, but this was a glittering Palace indeed.