By Simon Mills
So agonisingly close, it actually hurt! We were coming into injury time against Sunderland when what I can only describe as a wonder strike took it all away from us. It may have been two points, but the reality is those two points were worth so much more to all of us Palace fans (and the team itself of course). You get the feeling that we are under some kind of magic spell or curse at the moment, there seems no other way to describe it. We should be winning games, we should be comfortable and yet it’s just not happening – no matter how close we seem to come.
Going away to West Brom on a Saturday evening was never going to be easy, that much we knew - certainly not on our current run of form - but I don’t think any of us expected what was to come in that first half. WBA took full advantage to punish us to the extreme. As bad as we were, they were equally as good and their third goal was as good as anyone will see at the Hawthorns this season. Again though, it could and should have been prevented.
The second half was a different game entirely, save a terrible refereeing display in which we were denied not one, but two absolute stonewall penalties (and that’s the view shared even by the pundits!) and we came oh so very close to turning it all around. Coming back from three goals down, you got the feeling would have been as good as a win and right now it really feels like a win is the cure to break the aforementioned curse. But it wasn’t to be, it’s like fate was toying with us – giving us a ray of hope only to whip it away from us just as it comes into arm’s reach.
The same could definitely be said for Tuesday night's fixture up at the Stadium of Light. Having come back so strongly after another unfortunate deflection with two more superb efforts from Connor Wickham and with us finally heading towards three magical points... it was whipped away from us in stoppage time as the most unlikely and ridiculous effort screamed in from a seemingly impossible angle. In those circumstances it feels just like a defeat and certainly not enough to break the evil spell someone has inflicted upon us. It’s just as well this power doesn’t seem to be able to extend to the cup!
Liverpool are up next, a game which we Palace fans have almost come to expect to win. Somehow I have a bad feeling about it myself, but that could be a very good thing as I’ve felt confident about every game for the last month or two! Yannick Bolasie’s return most certainly had a major impact up in the north east and with Wickham on the goal trail there are some good omens for us as we seek an upturn of fortunes back at Selhurst Park.
It will again take a much improved performance if we are to claim anything as Liverpool have started to show their teeth under Jurgen Klopp. Having so publicly and empathetically described how irritated he was at their last defeat to us, one suspects he will have his players very much ready and raring to go on Sunday – something we will need to be prepared for. Daniel Sturridge’s return for the Reds is another danger and someone we will need to keep a close eye on if we wish to deny the Scousers on their visit.
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