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December 11 2017 5.07pm

Player ratings: West Brom v Palace

December 3 2017

Joel Ward

Joel Ward

A goalless draw away at West Brom saw Crystal Palace stretch their unbeaten run to four games. Mike Scott looks at how the players rated...

Back-to-back goalless draws, following 13 games without a clean sheet, demonstrates quite how much Roy Hodgson is helping to turn Palace’s fortunes around this season. Having said that, another game without enough bite up front saw the Eagles fail to get one over new Albion boss Alan Pardew

Julian Speroni - 7

With Hennessey pulling out at the last minute with back spasms, Speroni found himself back in goal after two league games out. Now both players can boast shut outs from their last appearances, although Speroni got a much tougher test against Albion than Hennessey did against Brighton. In particular, a decent save to deny Jay Rodriguez prevented the Eagles from going behind at the start of the second half. He marshalled a slightly makeshift defence well too, with no unforced errors or poor clearances.

Joel Ward - 9

While this isn’t the first time this column has talked about Ward’s remarkable renaissance of the last few games, he possibly had his best game of the season against West Brom. He must have been the last man half a dozen times, putting his body in the way of countless chances, including an effort from Sam Field with a few minutes to play that looked as though it was heading for the bottom corner. Apart from all that, he got more crosses in (or attempted to get them in) than most other players on the pitch too.

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Martin Kelly - 7

With illness getting the better of Scott Dann and Tomkins succumbing to a last-minute injury, Kelly found himself partnering Sakho. He had a mixed first half, starting off a little shakily and giving Ahmed Hegazi space for two headed opportunities (which he wasted), but improving as the game progressed. He was also lucky that Salomon Rondon nodded one the wrong side of the post after the break, after he got away from the ex-Liverpool man. After that, he barely put a foot wrong, partnering well with Ward to prevent much actually testing Speroni.

Mamadou Sakho - 7

A solid performance from Sakho, who had his hands full with the aerial and physical presence of Salomon Rondon, but kept the Venezuelan fairly quiet. He, like Ward, found himself last man a couple of times, but put in two or three excellent last-man challenges. He seemed to thrive too on Townsend’s swinging corners, unluckily seeing a header deflected away.

Jeffrey Schlupp - 7

Hodgson explained the comedy of errors leading up to the game in his post-match conference, talking of late injuries, broken down trains and hotel wedding receptions keeping the players awake. So, it is a wonder that the makeshift defence looked so solid. Schlupp is no exception, although much less came down his flank than what was being created by Rodriguez and Field down the other. He was caught out of position once in the first half, but aside from that, played the old fashioned full back role in a way some people have wondered whether he is capable of.

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Luka Milivojevic - 8

The kind of game where Palace find themselves throwing their bodies in front of the ball plenty and often suits Milivojevic down to the ground; this was definitely one of those games. With no Cabaye, the burden of defensive midfielder was heavier than usual, but the Serbian dictated play in front of the back four. He won plenty of aerial battles and won a fair few fouls that eased the pressure that built up a few times during the game. He started a fine move that ended in Zaha hitting the side netting early on, too.

James McArthur - 7

With Cabaye out, Hodgson’s decisions on the midfield were pretty much made for him. McArthur did the leg work, with Loftus-Cheek taking on the creative role. The Scotsman did well alongside Milivojevic, while also acting as the man to run on down the flank when someone needed to overlap Townsend. There is a slight lack of creativity when Cabaye isn’t playing, but the defence seemed to have an extra second to think with McArthur there in front of them.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 7

The majority of the breaks and moves Palace started during the game began with Loftus-Cheek. His physical strength seemed to be his main asset, although he seemed to go quiet for periods and was much more anonymous when he wasn’t in the middle. When he was involved, he seemed like Palace’s only real outlet to get the ball from the back four forward; perhaps this doesn’t suit him quite as much as having Cabaye next to him.

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Andros Townsend - 6

Whether it’s Benteke’s inclusion or it’s more complex an issue that that, Townsend does not seemed to have had quite the same opportunity to really run at people in the last couple of games. Again against West Brom, he has precious few opportunities to cross the ball and tended to be inside and/or behind Ward or McArthur when they got to the byeline. Was unlucky not to have been laid off the ball by Zaha for a one on one in the first half, but otherwise didn’t often make himself the target man.

On the plus side, Townsend’s corners and set pieces were excellent in Cabaye’s absence. Shortly before the end, he was swapped out for Bakary Sako (6), who put in a quick shift at the back that included putting Field off just enough in a worrying moment.

Wilfried Zaha - 7

Zaha had a couple of decent chances to open the scoring in the first half, including one that ended up in the side netting and another that was crying out to be laid off to Townsend who was through on the keeper. He seemed to get wound up by Michael Oliver refusing two penalty claims, both of which saw him get behind the West Brom defence.

He put in all of the effort in the second half, working as Palace’s only real, decent crossing outlet for much of it, although a lack of bodies in the box made his task that much more difficult. He’ll have less frustrating afternoons this season, definitely.

Christian Benteke - 5

Whether Benteke is still a way off fitness, whether Hodgson needs to tweak how he uses him or whether, simply, he is not currently the missing jigsaw piece Palace need, he had another frustrating afternoon. He won plenty of headers from Townsend’s corners, including one that saw him unmarked in the six-yard box, but the ball inevitably went straight to keeper Ben Foster on each occasion. He did not seem to be on quite the same wavelength as Zaha either, rarely finding himself anywhere near the Ivorian’s crosses.

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