James Tomkins goes into this afternoon’s derby game with Brighton in no doubt as to how much it means to both sides with Palace targeting maximum points to take them just one point behind Chris Hughton’s side.
“I was aware it was a big one talking to Palace fans and they look for the fixture when it comes out. I have played in a few derbies myself and this will be an interesting one. I played in the game at Brighton. I am sure the atmosphere is going to be very good. Every player lives for playing in that sort of atmosphere.
“All the teams who are down there are all fighting for the same thing. We all want three points. It obviously means a bit more to the fans with the history and the derby.
“Sometimes, as a player, you have to put it aside at times. Everyone understands the context of the game and how passionate fans are about the fixture. We lost against them in the FA Cup which is not ideal so hopefully we can owe them one back. For us it is about getting the points to stay in the league.”
A recent tough run of fixtures with three home games against sides from the top six could have seen more points registered if it wasn’t for late goals being conceded but the manner of the performances gives the 29 year-old hope for the final five games in the battle for top flight safety.
“We are confident. The games against the big teams were positive. I know we have not got the results we wanted but the performances have been positive. We have conceded a few late goals and we are aware of that as a team. It is something we are trying hard to get out of us.
“Performances of late have shown we are a team who are capable of getting out of the position we are in. Sometimes results do not reflect how you play. That is the way football is and sometimes you do not get what you deserve. Hopefully we can build on our confidence and what happened on last Saturday is not going to affect us,“ said Tomkins as he tried to put his finger on why the side have been letting in late goals and knows it is a negative that they need to cut out from their game.
“It is a hard one. It might be a bit of bad luck, when you look back to the Manchester United game you have to say 'what a strike that was' from Matic. Last weekend just a lack of concentration, it happens. We are looking to get that out of our game. But we are confident with the way we are playing. It is important for us not to look at the table because it is in our own hands and it is about what we do.”
After those matches against sides chasing end of season European places attention now turns to a set of games that some have called an easier run in than their competitors but the Eagles centre half doesn’t feel things will get any easier in the coming weeks.
“I think what people are saying is the teams we are playing now might not be as high up the table as the others, but it is just as hard for me. They are fighting for their lives and they are probably harder games than the ones against teams fighting at the higher part of the table.
“I am not looking at them and thinking they will be easy – not one bit; they will be tough and even tougher than those that have gone in recent weeks.”
One person that Tomkins believes will be vital before the final day of the season will be Roy Hodgson, with his experience and a cool head being key ingredients to get Palace through to safety.
“His experience will be brilliant for us. He is a calm guy, but if there is a need for him to say anything to us on the pitch, he will. He is a guy that you want in your corner really and in a place like this, and at a time like this.
“The amount of experience he has got helps us every bit as you would imagine,” he said as the defender also paid his tribute to the Eagles support who he knows will be there every kick of the way giving the side a crucial advantage from the stands with their vocal support.
“I think they have been brilliant home and away this year, all the fans. They make the effort to support us travelling all around the country, and the home fans have been just as good.
“I even think back to that Man United game when we were 2-0 up and looked like we were going to win the game, only to lose 3-2. But the fans still clapped us off and it continued that support they have given us throughout.
“With it being a derby, it is one of those fixtures they will have been looking forward to since they came out, and we are looking forward to it too. The fans will be brilliant on Saturday I am sure, and I am looking forward to the atmosphere.”