When Palace last faced Bournemouth on Boxing Day everything was relatively rosy in the Selhurst garden. A month or so on later and the return fixture is approached with a slight trepidation after the intervening 6 league matches produced just 2 points and a solitary goal courtesy of a Vertonghen error in the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham, who now lie ominously in wait in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. This is not exactly a do-or-die game but Pardew’s men need to turn a corner and put in a good performance to show they are back on track.
Bournemouth will be a difficult nut to crack as they have shown resilience in playing bright, positive football under the watchful eye of the bright young thing that is Ernie Howe. The Cherries have proved to be anything but a soft touch despite a catalogue of injuries that would have much bigger clubs wailing and gnashing their teeth. They have brought in Lewis Grabban and Benik Afobe to bolster their attacking options and the latter, in particular, has hit the ground running with 2 goals in 3 games. Bournemouth have only lost two of their last 11 league games so are the team in form.
Talking of adding to attacking options, Pardew has hinted that new signing Emmanuel Adebayor may play a part on Tuesday night and hopefully he will continue his sequence of scoring on his debut. Unfortunately, Yohan Cabaye who was so roughly treated against Stoke with no protection offered from referee Clattenburg, remains a doubt thanks to an ankle injury sustained during Saturday’s game. So responsibility for controlling the midfield may well rest on the shoulders of Jason Puncheon, who showed signs of recapturing his form in the last game. Wilfried Zaha should also gain confidence from his match-winning performance and goal.
Using the momentum of the victory over Stoke and a much-needed clean sheet, the team should be looking to dominate proceedings and show the form that catapulted the team to fifth in the table at the turn of the year. The fact that our barren run in front of goal started with the game at Bournemouth means it would be fitting if this game released a few of the demons that have been lurking and the goals started to flow again. Maybe the totemic man from Togo will be the catalyst that Palace have been searching for since late last year.
Richard Foster is a freelance football writer and author, who is a regular features contributor for The Guardian. He also writes for Sabotage Times and a variety of Palace blogs and fanzines.
The revised paperback edition of his latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs – is out now and available through usual bookshops, online & via Ockley Books – http://bit.ly/1SKsnfc.
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