Crystal Palace have been handed a double injury boost ahead of next weekend’s game against West Ham, with both Joel Ward and Damien Delaney returning to full training earlier this week.
Whilst Alan Pardew’s side have coped brilliantly in the pair’s absence, it will be a huge bonus to have them available for selection once again, bolstering our defensive options massively ahead of the hectic run-up towards the festive period in a few weeks time.
Ward has been sidelined for the last five Palace games after sustaining a knee injury shortly after our victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, in which he scored the all-important winner. Admittedly, Martin Kelly has done his best to plug the gap left by the former Pompey man in the intervening weeks, but in truth, the vast majority of Palace fans will feel far more comfortable with Ward on the right-hand side of defence in the coming weeks.
In Delaney’s case, a slight problem he sustained against Charlton Athletic in the Captial One Cup has been enough to keep him out until now, leaving Brede Hangeland to continue his fine run of performances next to the ever-reliable Scott Dann at the heart of our back four.
Both of our last two league fixtures have seen a Delaney-less central defensive partnership yield clean sheets, leading some to question whether or not the Irishman will walk straight back into the starting XI if passed fit in time for the visit of Slaven Bilic’s Irons.
Despite Hangeland’s advancing years, his efforts over the last few weeks saw him chosen as our Player of the Month for September, having deputised for both Delaney and Scott Dann at different points. Always composed in possession and an absolute man-mountain in the air, the former Fulham man would have every right to feel a tad frustrated were he to be put straight back on the bench as a direct result of Delaney’s return.
It’s certainly a nice dilemma for Alan Pardew to have.