The fixture against Southampton in September was Roy Hodgson’s first game in charge at Selhurst Park just days after his appointment but a Steven Davis early strike meant all three points went back with the Saints after just five games into the season.
At that point Palace were bottom of the league without a point and now the first match of the new year sees the side having moved out of the bottom three and playing with confidence and belief.
Andros Townsend believes those vital ingredients of any team have come through due to hard work on the training ground and the changes within the Eagles camp from that early meeting between the two sides is clear to see.
“I think an incredible amount has changed. You’ve seen in our performances it took us a while to get going under the new manager, but I think you saw a gradual upturn in form once he started to get his ideas across on the training pitch, and the way he wants us to play, you saw the performances gradually start to get better.
“I think confidence is a major factor, I think the fact we managed to get our key players back fit, it’s no secret that we struggled while Wilf was injured, and then Christian got injured, but I think as well the manager’s got us back to basics on the training field, we’ve done a lot of walking through of how he wants us to play, the repetition stuff, so when it comes to the game it’s basically imprinted in our brains so we know if this happens in a game we are ready with the answers as to how to deal with it.”
Wilfried Zaha’s return from injury had an immediate impact with his goal and performance in the defeat of Chelsea in October and Townsend is a great admirer of what the winger brings to the side on a consistent basis.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him (Wilf), he’s been incredible this season he really has, I think his first game back was our first win so that pretty much says it all and he’s been terrorising teams week after week in a Palace shirt and long may that continue.
“At the start of his return we were playing up front together so it was nice to kind of link up with each other, play one-twos and make runs in behind and play off each other a bit but I think now that I’m back on the wing and he has his free role up front it’s still good that we can kind of still play with each other on one side or if not hopefully cause problems on opposite wings."
The trip to the south coast on Tuesday evening will be the end of three games in six days and as always at this time of year it is a congested programme and one that can mean team changes due to injuries or tiredness but Townsend is keen to put any negatives to the back of his mind and concentrate on how far the team have come.
“Of course it’s difficult to play three games in a few days but you have to think that every other team is in the same situation, so if you’re feeling tired you must believe that so are the other team so it’s a level playing field in that sense.
“The fact that we’re out of the relegation zone or the fact that we’re still in contention is an amazing achievement, but I think the run we’ve gone on, we’ve kind of given ourselves half a chance and now we just have to capitalise on that and keep putting in the performances we have been and hopefully it’s enough come the end of the season.
“I remember doing an interview while we were on our losing run of seven defeats and the confidence was still there, the belief was still there, you look in the dressing room we’ve still got quality players, we knew that it was just a matter of time before results turned and thankfully they have."
Even in the early weeks of this season the sides chances of steering clear from relegation were being written off but Townsend believes that the majority of the squad’s experiences towards the end of the last campaign will prove vital as the push for safety goes into the final months.
“I think the good thing for us is we’ve been there before, we was there last season where we were kind of written off again and then we went on an incredible run towards the end beating some of the best teams in the league to stay up, so we have that confidence, we know even this season that we can beat the best teams at our stadium or at their stadium so that belief hopefully is enough for us.
“We can’t get carried away, we were given a handicap because of our start, yes all we’ve done now is kind of close the gap a little bit and given ourselves half a chance, we haven’t done nothing yet, we’re in the relegation battle as it is but hopefully the right performances will bring us the results we need and we can start climbing the table."