Last weekend’s 0-0 draw between Watford and Crystal Palace is unlikely to be looked back upon as a Premier League classic in years to come but thanks to the outstanding display of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho at the heart of the Eagles defence, our supporters came away from Vicarage Road with something to be truly cheerful about.
Following the season-ending injury suffered by Scott Dann during our battling 0-0 draw with champions Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, Tomkins and Sakho have become Roy Hodgson’s undisputed central defensive pairing of choice and on Saturday afternoon, they only improved their reputation as a duo, acting as a figurative brick wall in the faces of Watford’s attackers from the first minute until the last.
Admittedly, they came up against a Hornets side who have been going through a dry spell of late but on a day when Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend were left isolated at the other end of the field for long spells, Tomkins and Sakho were given an awful lot of defending to do throughout the contest. The understanding they appear to have built with one another showed in the statistics at full-time, with Tomkins having completed a massive 18 clearances on the day, the most of any player, with the aforementioned Frenchman coming next on the list with eight.
They also managed two interceptions each and combined to win seven headers, leaving Javi Gracia’s men stumped as to how to break the deadlock. In truth, it was Palace who had the better of the second 45 minutes but that was only made possible by the faultless work done by James and Mama in the opening period.
Incredibly for a side fighting for survival at the foot of the Premier League table, the pair have now started together on 10 occasions in red and blue and are yet to taste defeat, winning seven and drawing three. During that time, they have conceded just seven goals, a tally which averages out at one every 128 minutes.
Some defensive pairings simply fail to blossom but at Palace, it seems as though Tomkins and Sakho have found their ideal partners. With three games left to play between now and the end of the season one more win should be enough to see us safe, if those two continue to perform as well as they have been of late, we may not have to wait too long.