Late, late show revives Palace fans’ great expectations

GOLDIE wings in after the opening three games suggesting that Palace might just take off this season

I left the away terrace at Peterborough after the first game of the new Championship season in complete dismay, supplemented with more than a touch of anger at what I had witnessed.

Scannell: beginning to blossom into a real strike threat

Three loan players in a back four does not bode well, particularly with the turbulent backdrop that has characterised Palace in the last two seasons. A patched-up defence and one injured centre forward 20 minutes into the campaign quickly turned all the opening day optimism into deep concern. Dougie Freedman, calm as ever going into the game tipped most fans over the edge with 70 minutes gone by subbing the only bright spark, Sean Scannell.

What a start to the season it has been for Big Scanz. The local lad who has needed a big season has given himself every chance of finally living up to his potential. Speed, an eye for goal, energy and attitude has never been an issue; now there seems to be some strength, directness and a poacher’s instinct.

Scannell has been one of the stand out players in all of Palace’s three games so far, while the academy can continue to gloat at the “Wilsheresque” performances of John Williams and the game-changing trickery of Wilfried Zaha in Tuesday night’s win against Coventry.

A week ago, Palace fans were deflated; the wind had been knocked out of our sails before we had barely left the harbour. The phrase on everyone’s lips leaving London Road was “Here we go again, nothing’s changed”. The usual suspects were omitted from criticism, while Owen Garvan, on the pitch for 20 minutes, seemed once again the scapegoat for the afternoon’s failings.

It would appear that the fortunes of Garvan and Palace are somewhat entwined. Both much maligned in game one, only to be lavished in praise from the four corners of Selhurst against Burnley, and then Coventry.  Truth is, Garvan that has the best delivery in our squad and this season has already proved that he is a better corner-taker than another former Ipswich player, Darren Ambrose.

Garvan gets stick from fans mainly due to his body language and apparent lack of speed. He is the antithesis of Michael Hughes: he’s not a particularly “hard” player, and even if he did love a challenge, he probably would struggle to make it to the player in time anyway.

However, slot him in a stable team, with some proper movement to aim for up top, and he will cut open a Championship defence. Scannell will surely vouch that despite running like a pigeon, Garvan can pass a football.

So far, the Burnley game has to be the most impressive. Eddie Howe (who?) brought his “promotion-chasing side” down to Selhurst, widely tipped to take all three points. Jonathan Parr, Scannell and Garvan had other ideas. Without meaning to sound over-dramatic, that afternoon was somewhat of a revelation. No heartache or fear of relegation, just turning up for a home game, singing freely and seeing your team win comprehensively. I would go so far as to say I could get used to seeing us win with such ease.

Tuesday night’s fixture against Coventry was a complete contrast to Burnley both before and during the game. Palace fans marched up the Holmesdale Road on Tuesday night chests out, expecting a demolition against a widely reported poor Coventry City side.

Typically, the first half was grim viewing. Coventry were terrible, yet we reached the interval 0-0. A Coventry-supporting friend of mine was encouraged: “We’ve got to half-time goalless, maybe we could nick it?” They nearly did.

After going a goal down, Palace threw everything at the Sky Blues, leaving ourselves open at the back a few times in the pursuit of a point. Between the explosiveness of Scannell’s right foot, the dazzling feet of Zaha, and the alertness of Jermaine Easter, Palace rescued not one, but all three points to send the stadium into raptures and leave Coventry looking a long, tough season in the face.

Perhaps the message is not to get too carried away. Despite a better than usual start, we still have a slightly inexperienced and shallow squad. But look at Blackpool two years ago.  They also had a small squad, a small budget, but they had big ideas, character, desire and belief. With a bit of luck, that made them deadly.

Are Palace that far off Blackpool of 2009-2010?

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