Joel Ward was in fighting spirits ahead of the team’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow, with the defender praising the collective efforts of a side now unbeaten in four games, going some way to turning a corner and putting behind them a run of league form that started to hit the slide shortly after Christmas.
The one-hundredth milestone man played in what was another strong away performance on Sunday against Arsenal - a side battling to stay in the top four - and is in confident mood ahead of a similarly tough test away at Old Trafford tomorrow evening.
“It’s a massive game but every game in the Premier League is. We’re on a good run now and we want that to continue, we want to keep the momentum going into Sunday and the rest of the season so we’ll be doing everything in our power to come away with the points.
"On the other hand, it’s Man United, and you can never underestimate them no matter what kind of season they’re having. They have the quality and players who at the flick of a switch can change a game but we have that as well, and I think it’s going to be a tight game - we’ve shown in the past years we can beat anyone on our day.”
Although expected to miss tomorrow night’s fixture, Ward says the upturn in results isn’t down to one individual player, highlighting the importance of the team playing for each other and performing as a group which will need to be the case when up against the likes of Marcus Rashford and a fit again Wayne Rooney.
“Collectively as a team you have to deal with everything, you’ve got to do everything in your power to cover all bases and I think if we do that and concentrate on our performance there’s no reason we can’t come away with a good result. He (Rashford) has been a breath of fresh air for United. He’s got that fearless play to his game and he’s brought them alive with his youth, and energy and athleticism. But you can’t focus on one player because they’ve got other players that if you take care of that one player, someone else will do the job.”
Defending and playing as a unit seems to have been the key to the Eagles’ current run, and the defender says that even when opposing teams have gone in front, it has always been in the back of the players’ minds that they have the ability to create chances at the other end.
“To get two clean sheets (in the past four games) has been massive, we always create chances so we know if we keep a clean sheet then we’ve got the quality upfront and in the middle to create. It’s given us a confidence and in the past few games we’ve defended really well right from the front as a team and you can build from that. Once you have that platform you can affect the games and cause teams problems.”
While relegation talk is relatively muted (Palace sit nine points clear of the drop zone), it is still possible for the team to be drawn back into the fight for survival, especially if their own, and other teams’ results, don’t go their way. However, Ward believes the team have shown their mental toughness in coming through recent adversities, and says the only way to play is by concentrating on their own performances - everything else will take care of itself.
“We had a great start to the season and then went through a difficult patch, but you have to remain confident and mentally strong when things aren’t going your way. Things might not fall for you or happen the way you want it to, but it’s how you react to that situation and how you turn it around.
"I’ve got every confidence in the lads that they’re going to battle with me, and when you’ve got that, more times than not you’re going to come out victorious. It’s a league that’s so tightly knitted, one win and we can jump up a few places and it’s a completely different story. We can only focus on what we’ve got to do, we can’t affect other teams and their results so we just have to do our jobs.”