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From The Stands

9 March 2016

You know things aren’t going well when we don’t get our traditional three points from Liverpool! Our luck just is not in at the moment is it? Despite a red card for James Milner (fully deserved and not the first player who should have walked when playing us this season), hitting the bar yet again, a gut-wrenching slip for stand-in keeper Alex McCarthy and, of course, that penalty Christian Benteke ‘won’ (and, oh boy, he certainly won it, Olympic swimming judges would have been impressed with that).

However, and it is a big however, you do tend to make your own luck, even Alan Pardew admits we/he made mistakes on Sunday and every fan I have come across has more than agreed with that. With Liverpool down to ten men and 1-0 down, how they came back to win that game - with or without the assistant referee’s invaluable help, is simply incomprehensible. The last time I was left sitting in the stand long after the final whistle simply staring at the pitch was all the way back to our opening day defeat to Watford in our last season in the Championship.

Put simply, that hurt. I mentioned a possible voodoo curse on our Premier League form in my blog last week and that game did little to suggest I was too far off the mark. The win we badly need in the league just doesn’t seem to want to come and with Leicester up next, it won’t get any easier. Fortunately, we have a lovely distraction to take our minds away from such misery as we prepare for our first FA Cup Quarter Final in 21 years this coming Friday.

Yesterday was the first time I started to really think about the game and how it could play out and all of a sudden it hit me… gut-wrenching nerves and anticipation. Ironically, had we drawn one of the big boys in this round, I don’t think I would feel half as nervous. The weight of expectation would be on their shoulders, most of us would believe we'd be unlikely to progress and getting anything from the match would have been a massive bonus. As it is, we will be the bookies' favourites, as the Premier League team facing the last remaining Championship team (or any other non-top flight club for that matter) left in the competition. Anything less than progress for us would be considered a cup upset.

Drawing inspiration from a past blog again, it would be oh so typically Palace wouldn’t it? Beating three tough Premier League opponents (including title challenging, in-form Tottenham) only to be denied Wembley one step short by a team our fans will inevitably expect us to defeat. I mentioned at the time of the draw how important the mental toughness of the squad will be and I can’t help think the same will be true for our fans.

The last time we played Reading was, funnily enough, in their promotion season (the season before we won the playoffs), when we drew 0-0 at Selhurst before a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Madejski. Naturally, as is the nature of football, both teams will have undergone transformations in that time. Reading are once again managed by Brian McDermott, now in his second stint in charge, having returned to the club in December. With players like recent Chelsea signing Michael Hector, Watford’s hotshot striker Matej Vydra and the likes of Hal Robson-Kanu/Ali Ab-Habsi there are certainly no guarantees.

I honestly can’t wait for this one, the prospect of an incredible cup atmosphere and playing for the prize of a semi-final at Wembley (even if only the final should be played there, in truth). There are likely to be some extreme emotions at play, highs or lows, and those kind of games are usually the best. It’s a high stakes poker game, in which you have no choice but to go all in and winner takes all - unless we draw and have the agony of a replay!

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