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crystal palace 2 1000x500After the enjoyable evening at Hednesford it was an overnight stop in Bedfordshire before a day in London on the Saturday and I have to say it got off to an enjoyable start in the morning, despite the heavy rain and the fact that Cardiff had dropped us into the bottom three; it only deteriorated during the afternoon at Crystal Palace.

The rain had just about disappeared by the time I left the train at Norwood Junction and made the short journey to Selhurst Park. Once inside, my now infamous BVB coat got me into conversation with some Germans from the Black Forest, one of them who was a former mayor. To be honest, I’m not too sure what they were saying to me but one of them, Manfred, I have met before on one occasion when we played at the Etihad. I also spoke to two American based Clarets, one, incredibly, a current season ticket holder. I was hoping all that wouldn’t the highlight of the afternoon; sadly it was.

Having made my way in, I found I didn’t have the best of seats, but having said that, I don’t think there are any good views. So, if my report appears not to positive, it maybe that all our best play happened down the left wing at the far end which was impossible to see.

I did have a good view of the eagle flying from one end of the pitch to the other, probably the one real highlight of my visit.

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We’d made a couple of changes from the team beaten by Newcastle. Well again Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson was preferred to Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick returned at the expense of Sam Vokes as we returned to the sort of system that served us so well last season and the one that I have to say I prefer.

I’m afraid it didn’t work. Palace started the game in the ascendancy and ended it that way; I don’t think there was any period in between either that they weren’t on top. This simply was awful stuff from us, the worst we’ve been all season. Some thought I was harsh with my summing up of the Newcastle game. Maybe I was, maybe it was the frustration of losing at home to such a poor team, but I don’t think any, certainly not many, will disagree with my thoughts on this game.

We might have had some Germans watching us but they had a German on the pitch in Max Meyer and he twice came close to giving Palace an early lead. Joe Hart denied him with an outstanding save down to his left and the midfielder then curled an effort very close to our post.

“If we can keep it at 0-0 for twenty minutes or so, we might be alright,” I said optimistically. We didn’t keep it at 0-0, we fell behind on 16 minutes to a bizarre goal. Ben Mee gave the ball away but we got away with it at the expense of a throw in. James McArthur took it, got the ball back and played it low into the box. No one got a touch as it made its way into the net off the far post.

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There were 74 minutes remaining and I can’t think of one occasion when I really thought we were going to get back into it. We had a couple of, maybe, half chances, in the first half but when referee Lee Probert blew for half time we could have no complaints whatsoever at being 1-0 down.

If anything it got worse after the break and it is difficult to understand how Palace, despite them struggling to score goals this season, didn’t add a second goal until thirteen minutes from the end. Hart made saves, they missed unbelievably good chances, Wilfried Zaha hammered one effort against the inside of the post.

Was it going to be one of those games where they couldn’t get a second and we nip in and get an undeserved equaliser. It might not have happened at Wolves but we were close to a goal at the end, but this time Palace put the whole thing beyond doubt with a stunning second from Andros Townsend. There was never a chance of Hart, or any other goalkeeper for that matter , getting anywhere near it.

It had been one way traffic for much of the second half and no matter what we did we couldn’t find a way to stop it. Thankfully, that was the end of the scoring from them and we might have had a consolation with a couple of late half chances, but this performance was simply nowhere near good enough if we are to get out of our predicament. We dropped to 19th later in the day when Southampton got a point against Manchester United with Chelsea, thankfully, sparing us bottom place by beating Fulham this afternoon.

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There is absolutely no doubt now that this season is nothing more than a relegation battle. It’s one I do believe we can win and one I think we will win, but it is going to be a close run thing given the start we’ve made.

You can point the finger at our lack of goals but that is not the problem for me, it’s at the other end where teams no longer need to work hard to score against us and that’s frightening. “We no longer play like a Dyche team,” someone said to me yesterday and that, for me, sums it up. We need to play like a Dyche team, we need to get that organisation, that framework, back and we need to start making it more difficult for teams to score against us.

It’s 29 goals conceded now in 14 Premier League games and I’ve compared that with previous Premier League seasons. After 14 games in 2009/10 we’d conceded 31 with goal 29 scored by Carlton Cole, West Ham’s third in a 5-3 win against us.

Both 2014/15 and 2016/17 saw the 29th goal come in game 19 – scored by Fernandinho in the 2-2 draw at Manchester City in the last game of 2014 and by Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe two years later in our 4-1 win against Sunderland.

Last season it was Jamie Vardy with Leicester’s goal in our 2-1 win against them. That was game 33 in a season in which we’d conceded just 11 goals in the first 14 games.

The teams were;

Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, James McArthur (Jeffrey Schlupp 78), Cheikhou Kouyaté, Luka Milivojevic, Max Meyer (Jason Puncheon 90+2), Andros Townsend (Alexander Sørloth 88), Wilfried Zaha. Subs not used: Vicente Guaita, Joel Ward, Martin Kelly, Jordan Ayew.
Yellow Card: Max Meyer

Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon (Robbie Brady ht), Steven Defour (Sam Vokes 60), Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood (Ashley Barnes 80). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood.
Yellow Card: Ben Mee.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 25, 098.

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