Martin Kelly struck a cautionary tone in his pre-match media commitments ahead of today’s trip to Doncaster Rovers, having been burned in the FA Cup once before at the hands of a lower division team from his time at Liverpool, insisting that Palace are well aware of the threat posed by League One’s Doncaster Rovers.
The defender said: “I remember at Liverpool being knocked out by Northampton at Anfield, so I understand that you’ve got to pay the utmost respect to teams who, by the way, are doing well in the league. We know it’s going to be a tough game, but you know the FA Cup is what it is, and it’s going to be exciting because you see bigger teams go out.
“When you’re a kid watching the FA Cup growing up, you always dream of becoming a professional footballer. No matter what level it is, when you’re in the cup - you know it’s the cup that causes upsets. So we can’t take it as ‘We’re the Premier League versus League One’. It’s going to be a really difficult game.”
Kelly started both FA Cup games to date, helping to keep back-to-back clean sheets in the victories over Grimsby Town and Tottenham Hostpur, which resulted in the tie with Doncaster Rovers for a place in the quarter finals.
But Kelly suggested that a possible FA Cup Final is far from anyone’s mind as can be, though as he has twice felt FA Cup Final heartbreak with Liverpool in 2012 and Palace in 2016, it is a competition where he feels he has unfinished business. “Having lost the FA Cup Final twice – it’s up there for me to try to get a winners’ medal, as you’d ask any pro. I grew up loving and watching the FA Cup.
“We’ve got Doncaster first, and we can’t look that far ahead. We’re nowhere near that [the Final] yet in this tournament. We’ve got to take Sunday’s game first and try to get the result we want from it.”
On today’s match, he said: “It’s a great opportunity for us to try and take our game plan that we’ve been working on, away to Doncaster. We’re expecting a really difficult game, as an away game. We’ve got to respect Doncaster, all we can do is try to use our tactics and do what the manager asks us to do on the day. It’s not like working on a game in the Premier League - we know that the opposition will fight for their lives to get through to the next round as we will.”
Should the game go the distance and end with the scores level after 90 minutes, extra-time and penalties will be played. Kelly said of the prospect: “When you go in to a game, you look to try to win it within 90 mins. We understand it can go to extra time and penalties, and we’ve got to be ready for that. But we’re ready to win the game any way possible.”
But Kelly has not devoted much time to penalty practice in preparation for today, saying: “With me being a defender, I haven’t practiced much. I’d take one and be confident in taking one, but there are guys in front of me who would put their hand up and take one before me.”
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