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May 25 2018 4.02am

Survival sealed as Potters sunk

May 6 2018

Eagles travelling supporters in happy mood before the kick-off at Stoke’s bet365 stadium

Eagles travelling supporters in happy mood before the kick-off at Stoke’s bet365 stadium

It was Palace’s penultimate game and the Eagles are now mathematically safe after a 2-1 win. Jamesey gives a sofa-eye view, while Wilf King travelled to the game.

As an old “scarfer” I never take anything for granted. I have probably banged on far too much about “the Oldham syndrome” and won’t go on about it any more. But nothing’s finished till it’s finished. And now it is.

Stoke City were the club with the biggest problem and came into the game (May 5) fighting for top-tier survival after 10 years’ residence among the elite.

The Potters were a formidable middle-order team for quite a while under the stewardship of Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes but this season, form has been disappointing enough to replace Hughes with Paul Lambert in January. The change has had no success.

After the Eagles’ 5-0 demolition of Leicester last week we were wondering what to expect. Roy Hodgson unsurprisingly started with the same line-up and in the opening salvos of the first half the team looked oddly disinterested.

It’s hard to say whether thoughts were more on first-class flights to Dubai or Florida but the boys in the black away strip appeared to think that Pilesocash League play was guaranteed which was not mathematically the case.

Current star of the Potters team is Zherdan Shaqiri, a diminutive Swiss of Albanian/Kossovar heritage. His lovely cross to Mame Diouf was wasted in the 23rd minute but the Potters gave Wayne Hennessey little to do until the breakthrough came just before half-time.

If ever there is poetic justice in football it came when Shaqiri was fouled by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Swiss took the free-kick which was deflected neatly by Loftus-Cheek into Hennessey’s net.

1-0 to the Potters and the stadium, until that point gripped by tension, broke into unbridled joy. Salvation was in sight.

In the break Roy must have strongly reminded his players that they weren’t in the Midlands on a sight-seeing trip but to win a game and give CPFC definite and unarguable top-tier status for a 6th consecutive season.

If so, it certainly worked and the Eagles were in a different class. They emphasised this in the 68th minute when James McArthur, having a magnificent second half, slid the ball past Jack Butland to equalise.

Many joyful Stoke faces lost their smiles but worse was to come for them.

A few minutes from time Patrick van Aanholt seized on a defensive slip and made it two for the Palace. The game was won and Stoke were down.

For the final game of the season, West Bromwich Albion visit Selhurst and whatever the mathematics of the Baggies’ situation, CPFC can relax and enjoy a party and, who knows, win the game and ensure a second top-10 finish in the modern era. Wilf King reports below.


We are staying up!

After the drubbing we gave Leicester in our last match I was expecting good things when I took one of the 15 FREE coaches to see whether Stoke City could preserve their Premier League status.

Stoke have one good player, Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swiss international. It should be remembered he scored the first goal in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park.

Sure enough during an intense first half (where pre-match the Stoke fans had been encouraged to a frenzy) on 43 minutes Shaqiri scored from a free-kick deflected in off Loftus-Cheek who had fouled him.

The noise levels from the Stoke fans were at a crescendo as safety was within their grasp. HT 1-0.

The second half was altogether different and the Palace players seemed to remember that a win would guarantee their survival in the top flight. When Christian Benteke replaced Yohan Cabaye on 63 minutes his name was sung loudly and the sense was that he might score another goal.

On 68 minutes McArthur finished a flowing counter-attacking move to make it 1-1. Palace were in the ascendancy and the home fans became nervous.

Another sweet move, with an assist by Ryan Shawcross, which on 86 minutes led to Van Aanholt burying his shot under Butland for 1-2. Stoke were relegated to the Championship and, as expected, the Palace fans chanted “You’ll be playing Millwall next year”.

As the final whistle approached the away support sang “We are staying up”.

What a remarkable journey this season has been; in my last three away matches Crystal Palace have secured five points and their Premier League status for a sixth season.

I retire from 2017/18 a happy Bald Eagle.

Wilf King

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