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December 11 2023 3.35am

Punch – local hero

April 12 2016

Bolasie and Puncheon run at the Norwich defence in the first period

Bolasie and Puncheon run at the Norwich defence in the first period

Anxious day at Selhurst for a crucial game against Norwich City. Jamesey reports on a happy 1-0 outcome.

Three years ago, returning from Wembley after our 1-0 play-off final win against Watford and consequent elevation to the Pilesomoulah League, I was in two minds about the outcome.

In my own lifetime I have watched the Glaziers/Eagles in all the divisions and frankly, the level to which we have been most suited has mainly been in the second tier.

Below that, it has all been plain dreary and the top level has always proved to be little too much for us, apart from a some rare exceptions.

Up among the top dogs we have always been somewhat out of our depth and never quite able to compete.

In the second division we have usually been in the top bunch and looked comfortable.

In the 2013-14 season, would we be the victims of many a good hiding, never quite able to match most of the teams we would be meeting?

It looked like that was how it was shaping up until the arrival of Tony Pulis.

With TP and, of course, Alan Pardew, things have been different and we have looked far more at home and able to hold our heads high until the wheels came off last December and the awful descent began.

This supporter, for one, has grown happy in the top echelon and would regret not being in the national eye along with Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, and the rest.

It has been unpleasant in the past few months and after a handy away point against West Ham we could dig ourselves further out of the self-inflicted hole with three points against Norwich who are also fighting to stay up.

So another packed stadium was all set for a nerve-racking game on a blustery spring day (April 9).

The first half was not of the highest quality it must be said. The players looked on edge and who could blame them. An awful lot was at stake for both sides.

The were errors galore, constant injury hold-ups and the Eagles' tactical plan was difficult to fathom.

Two of our two best players Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie seemed unable to really get going and frustration mounted as Palace defenders time and again lumped the ball high to possibly the smallest player on the pitch, Dwight Gayle.

As stated above, the Canaries had plenty to be worried about too and the MOTD footage showed Delia Smith watching glumly as though she had just watched her soufflé go flat.

Both sides could have gone ahead and at least it was 0-0 at half-time when associate Palace director Eddie Izzard entertained us with an interview and a "lap of honour".

Maybe Eddie's antics stimulated the team because the second period brought some much better football.

When Wilfried Zaha came on in the 65th minute, the Palace performance went up another notch and within three minutes of Wilf's arrival, Jason Puncheon picked up a clever pass from Joel Ward and lashed the ball into the net to score the winning goal.

The local lad was well and truly delighted and his emotional celebrations were marvellous (for Eagles supporters) to behold.

What now, we all wondered; would the team close up shop and sit on a narrow lead?

The answer was no. The Red-and-Blues went looking for a second and the crowd were treated to yet more excellent football as Norwich desperately fought to cancel the deficit.

It was a great relief when the whistle blew and the Eagles had won their first league game in 2016 and put a healthy 10 points margin from the drop zone.

It is, of course, by no means certain yet, but it is highly probable Palace will pick up some more points from the remaining six games and be in the Loadsadosh league for the 2016-17 campaign – especially if the team can maintain the level of quality they showed after the break.

Incidentally, has football become even more of an intellectual hobby nowadays?

A "quality" Sunday newspaper ran a thumbnail picture of Dr Tulp's Anatomy Lesson, painted by Rembrandt and showing a dead body about to be dissected by students.

The general drift of the reference was that the position of the body, naturally in repose, and surrounded by the students, strongly resembled part of Puncheon's goal celebration.

Still, I am certain that all you experts on 17th century Netherlandish art out there hardly needed to be told that.

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