Published author, Palace fan and all-round lovely bloke Richard Foster will be providing HLTCO with match previews throughout the 2015/16 campaign, bringing a degree of thoughtful perspective to the madness of the Premier League from week to week.
On the back of two narrow defeats to teams that were in the top six last season, we now face one of the promoted triumvirate who are all acquitting themselves reasonably well in the rarefied atmosphere of the Premier League. Watford are, in complete contrast to Palace, on a run of two successive victories, and confidence will be surging through the Hornets’ ranks under the astute leadership of the former Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores. With the prolific Ighalo and the always-dangerous Deeney there is plenty to concern a Palace back four that may be shorn of three first team regulars in Ward, Dann and Delaney – the odds on a Watford victory will probably be quite short.
This will be a severe test of Pardew’s ability to steer Palace back on to course and regain the momentum that carried the team to that Stamford Bridge win, which seems eons ago. The other major concern is that Wickham is out and we are struggling to find a target man as Murray has left for the sunnier shores of Bournemouth. Bolasie is many things but he is certainly not a centre forward and Dwight Gayle dropped a pretty big hint when scoring a hat-trick in midweek against Charlton that he could well be the man to lead the line and even score a goal, something that our central strikers have failed to do in the league so far.
Then there is the goalkeeping issue. McCarthy has been generally as safe as houses and pretty commanding but two errors in the last two games have meant that draws have turned into losses. Of course, everyone makes mistakes up and down the pitch but when a keeper does so, it is exacerbated because it often leads to a goal. Confidence is crucial when you are wearing the green/ yellow/ cerise jersey and the hope is that McCarthy has not been shaken by those couple of slips and is ready to repel the likes of Deeney, Ighalo et al.
Naturally playing Watford brings back many fond memories of May 2013 and the Play-Offs Final when KP buried that penalty into the top corner. Amazingly of the fourteen that played at Wembley that day, Zaha might be the only Palace player to be in the starting line-up at Vicarage Road. So maybe it is time for Wilf to rekindle those glorious moments and become the thorn in Watford’s side again.
Richard Foster is a freelance football writer and author, who is a regular features contributor for The Guardian and Sabotage Times. He also writes for a variety of Palace blogs and fanzines.
His latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Play-Offs is out now and available via www.ockleybooks.co.uk.
Talking Balls, his sports quotes book, was launched earlier this month.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster