Dwight Gayle’s two second-half goals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, as clinical finishing from the striker ensured Palace ended their last game of the season at Selhurst Park on a high.
The three points have more than secured the Eagles Premier League safety, but Gayle admits the team were given a strong talking to at half-time after a lack-lustre forty-five minutes.
“We started well in the first ten minutes and I thought it looked like we were going to score but once they scored we didn’t really create too much and I thought we needed to go back to our game plan which was to put them under pressure and work harder as a team - I thought we lacked a bit of that in the first half.
“Gaffer got into us at half time and it showed in the second half - we came out all guns blazing and just pushed on from there.”
It took the south London club only two minutes into the second period to find an equaliser, and Gayle credits teammate Yannick Bolasie for a powerful run which saw the ball break loose and into the striker’s path where he was able to slot the ball into the corner of the net.
“Yannick’s come out firing, he’s dribbled through and I think the referee was going to give a penalty but he waved play on and luckily I managed to slide it home which was nice to get the first one and get us back drawing and after that we got a free kick. I fancied it and luckily Punch let me have it and it went in.”
The big man, small man partnership between Gayle and Connor Wickham has not been able to get going this season, but the two made a case to the manager for playing them both in the Cup final, and Gayle hopes he’s done enough to get a place in the starting eleven.
“We were speaking after the game and we were saying how nice it is to play alongside each other and work off of each other. It’s nice to have someone up there with you and hopefully we’ll have a chance to do it again.
“It’s everyone’s dream to play in an FA Cup final but you can only pick eleven players at the end of the day so hopefully I can do something next week to push him (Pardew) a bit further to put me in the eleven.”
Both Gayle’s goals came at the Holmesdale end of the ground, and with Selhurst erupting into emphatic celebration, the striker says scoring in front of the home support is the best feeling ever.
“The fans are excellent with me every week, I love playing for them and scoring in front of them, the boys as well, I love the boys here and there’s no better group to get on with and it’s lovely, it’s perfect.”