After a massive anti-climax of a play-off final Crystal Palace edged out fellow Londoners Watford after a penalty sent them up after extra-time. Personally I feel it was written in the stars with Ian Holloway in charge and the magnificent Kevin Phillips coming off the bench to dispatch the penalty expertly having done so throughout his illustrious career.
Palace’s season started with young manager Dougie Freedman in charge however when Bolton came calling for him in late October it was an offer he couldn’t turn down. The start of November saw the Eagles appoint Ian Holloway who knows all too well about the Championship. His first game in charge was a 5-0 home win over Ipswich which actually took them to the top of the table. As the season progressed Palace hit a real bad spell and looked to bottle it if you would as they only won 1 game in their last 10 matches.
However having said all of this they did enough to hold off many and claim and playoff place and that was important to Holloway and the club as they still had ‘a chance’.
They played Brighton in the semi-final which weren’t the best two games, or should I say couldn’t live up to the heights and extraordinary drama of the other semi-final, Watford v Leicester. However it was still just as important. The first leg was a drab affair with few chances as both teams’ main priority was to keep it ridiculously tight in all areas. Dare I say the highlight or the most exciting part of the game was the nasty looking knee injury to the ultimate talisman and league top goal scorer Glenn Murray. In the second leg at the Amex Stadium it looked as though the players realised they have to go forward and take risks in order to achieve the greatest prize. As precious time ticked on and still no goals were the scored in the match, there could only be one player who stepped up his game to new heights and to be honest he was looking lively all game, Wilfried Zaha took the game into his own hands. First he guided his header into the roof of the net then not long after he rolled his man cleverly and lashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar to seal Crystal Palace’s place at Wembley to face Watford.
The playoff final, now worth £120 million (that’s if they stay up) always gets hyped up massively and entails so much build up that after previous finals have been such entertaining games, you expect nothing less each year. However this proved to be another damp squib of a game, maybe because the consequences are just so colossal.
I believe that for next season Palace will obviously have to invest but they have to look at what happened to QPR as they invested too much and as a result lost all their team spirit. Holloway will look for the perfect balance of team spirit that got them up but the main alarms are the ones of departing winger Wilfried Zaha, and they are big shoes to fill. There’s no doubt that it will be a struggle and a scrap all season but you never know what Holloway can conjure up with his tricks.
Can he produce a spectacular season and keep the eagles flying…….