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From The Stands

24 February 2016

In our latest fan blog Simon Mills reviews the cup action, return of Yannick and casts an eye towards our return to cup action at The Hawthorns.
Just one game from Wembley and two games from our first FA Cup final in 26 years…just let that sink in! It’s not like we have even done it the easy way, requiring victories over three difficult top-flight opponents, the latest being away to Spurs, one of Europe’s top form teams, giving supporters the most reason to start believing that this year could still be ours for the taking.
For the first time the draw appears to have been kind to us, as we now face the only non-Premier League team left in the competition. I will admit to feeling rather wary of the Royals - having come down from the natural high of avoiding the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal in the quarter-finals, the realisation that there is now an expectation for us to progress does bring a certain degree of pressure. The last thing we can do is take Reading for granted and expect anything other than an extremely tough fixture. If we keep our heads and treat them exactly as we would any other team left in the cup we have an incredible opportunity; staying mentally strong for this one could easily determine the outcome.
We seemed to have reserved our best performances in the past two months for cup games and despite a very small minority suggesting the points would have been better received, I think the vast majority of Palace fans will grudgingly accept a lower placed finish should it ultimately result in just a second FA Cup final in the club’s history come May 21st (even at the expense of attending the beer festival!)
That said, the sooner we can creep to that safety line in the league the better and although our previous cup successes have failed to yield an improved Premier League outcome, I wouldn’t mind betting that following victory at White Hart Lane we could very easily turn that corner on Saturday. A win against such impressive opposition will likely give the whole squad a real boost, a clean sheet will do wonders for the entire defence (who have looked shaky of late) and the return of Yannick Bolasie will, of course, bring enormous relief to fans and teammates alike.
While we may have only seen a brief cameo from our talisman winger and although his fitness will need some work before we are likely to see our number 10 back to his very best (or indeed for an entire match), his mere presence not only gives everyone a morale boost, but also gives other teams something extra to fear.
The sight of Bolasie running down the wing is one we have missed greatly and for other teams it has been a very welcome relief. There hasn’t been a supporter of another club I have spoken to who wasn’t happy or feeling more confident knowing he would be absent.
Wilfried Zaha has showed his very best form over the last month or so, he has been forced to step up his game in an attempt to make up for the absence of his partner in crime. The problem has been that without Yannick, other teams have been able specifically to target Zaha and double or triple up in an effort to stop his devastating runs, which usually result in a chance or effort on goal. Bolasie’s return will offer Zaha (and teammates) the opportunity to exploit the resulting space that will ultimately be vacated as defenders try to cope with the lightning duo.
With West Brom up next, we have a great chance to get our league form back on track. It’s time for us to use our cup form to our advantage and really take the game to the Baggies.
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