A hard-fought 2-2 draw at West Ham thanks to a Dwight Gayle equaliser yielded Crystal Palace’s first league point for a month.
But with fellow Premier League strugglers Norwich City winning their relegation battle with Newcastle yesterday, Palace’s breathing space to other relegation strugglers has grown even smaller.
It all makes next Saturday’s Selhurst showdown between the Eagles and the Canaries a vital game for both sides, with Alan Pardew surely praying that his Palace team’s winless streak in the league is not extended to 15 games.
In truth, a point at Upton Park must be viewed as a decent outcome, since West Ham, with Dimitri Payet, have been one of the outstanding Premier League sides of the season, alongside Leicester and Spurs.
Pardew’s men also have referee Mark Clattenburg to thank for his straight red on Cheikou Kouyate, leaving Palace 23 minutes to play against 10 men. Even Palave manager Pardew described the decision as “harsh”.
Gayle’s goal, just minutes later, helped justify Pardew’s decision to bring him on at half-time, in place of fans’ favourite Wilfried Zaha.
Payet had put the Hammers ahead on 41 minutes with his latest brilliant free-kick, his curling shot flying over the defensive wall and into the top corner behind keeper Wayne Henessey.
Palace, still without a win since December 19, had gone ahead on 20 minutes when Damien Delaney headed in from Bakary Sako’s free-kick. Hammers keeper Adrian had fumbled the ball into his path at the far post.
But Manuel Lanzini struck from just outside the six-yard box to draw level just two minutes later.
Palace are now 16th in the league, two places and seven points above the drop zone, with Norwich one place and three points behind them and likewise seeking the security of more points next Saturday.
In truth, Palace are probably safe enough for another season in the Premier League’s promised land.
But ahead of their Wembley date with Watford in the FA Cup semi-final later this month, some winning form in the league will help settle a lot of big game nerves.
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