Palace Bully Argyle To Win
Argyle 0 - Crystal Palace 1
We were awful, the game was awful, the pitch was awful, the weather was awful and the ref was awful. No further reporting is required!
Except to say that… Paul Mariner kept faith with the same team that started against Newcastle United in Wednesday's cup game, which meant that sought after striker Jamie Mackie was still suffering from 'illness', a rare disease called 'transferitus' that only affects football players every January!
The pitch looked in poor condition after the snowfalls this past week, it cut-up really bad and that was just during the pre-match warm-up!
A sparse crowd saw Palace midfielder Neil Danns shoot over the crossbar after Gary Sawyer had given the ball away on the edge of the area.
Argyle's 4-4-2 formation was up against the 4-3-3 formation deployed by Palace and the Greens struggled to cope with this throughout the game, but more about that later.
With the panto season starting to wind down referee Tony Bates made a late dash as this season's Home Park villain with some erratic decisions against the home side.
Argyle fans should know better than anyone the black arts used by a Neil Warnock side and so it proved in this game. A little time wasting here, a tug of the shirt there, a cynical tackle here and so it went on and on with Master Bates failing to clamp down on the Palace 'football' players.
Just as the game settled down to be a scrappy affair Palace went in front with a scrappy goal. A hesitant Chris Barker allowed Victor Moses time to turn in the area and part the Argyle defence, his 12-yard shot took a deflection and sailed into the net to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Now every Argyle fan will know that it's been over two years since Argyle came from behind to win a game, so even after 17 minutes the game looked over.
By now the rain had started and turned into a downpour.
To be honest Argyle looked poor, it's hard to believe that in our last league game we looked world beaters and scored four goals.
The game continued to be a stop-start contest with niggling fouls committed by Palace, Argyle just couldn't get into any rhythm but Ashley Barnes did have a shot on-target but Julian Speroni easily saved.
Just before half time Darren Ambrose tried to lob Romain Larrieu from 25 yards but the French keeper back-peddled and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
Argyle physio Clare Turner had her busiest game yet, she spent more time on the pitch tending to the injured players than the players themselves! Her wet sponge must be absolutely dripping!
Hopefully Argyle will play better in the second half.
Alan Gow replaced Barnes at the start of the second half and one other notable change was that Chris Clark moved about 10 yards inside from his left wing position to bolster the midfield but the result was that the width was missing throughout the second half.
Argyle did start the second period as the better team, forcing the first of their two corners and a free-kick, unfortunately Gow wasted the free kick and groans were heard around the stadium as his set-piece sailed over the crossbar.
The pudding of a pitch was now affecting the play, not helped by the heavy rain; Argyle's one hope was that the ref would call off the game!
Palace continued to disrupt the game at every opportunity and felt the wrath of the Home Park faithful. Alan Judge fizzed a shot just wide from a difficult angle and Mariner changed things around by taking off the anonymous Luke Summerfield and moving Karl Duguid into midfield with substitute David McNamee taking over at right-back.
Another free-kick from Gow found touch instead of the head of an Argyle player, there really wasn't much to cheer about.
The ref did start to take some action against the cynical fouls from Palace by finally discovering the yellow card in his pocket but it was too late. If only he had done this in the first half then we may have seen some red cards during the second 45 minutes.
Goal attempts were rare for both sides, the feeling was that Palace had got their goal and were willing to defend it while Argyle struggled to carve out any chances at all.
With the rain still pouring down and the pitch looking like an old fashioned muddy pitch from the 70's, Mariner sprang a surprise by sending on Yoann Folly for Carl Fletcher, we are losing and we have Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench. Go figure.
Late in the game Mariner changed the formation again by moving Judge into the 'hole' behind the strikers but again the team suffered because of the lack of width. The central midfield players would win the ball and look to pass it wide but there was no-one there.
Argyle's last chance came in the final minute of injury time when Judge was fouled 20 yards out and up stepped Gow to waste another free-kick as he thumped it into the wall. That just about summed up his contribution and the game as a whole.
The final whistle was met with a few boos from the fans but the majority of fans are just numb to it all now.
Will the pitch hold up to having three games in 11 days played on it?
We need help and double quick. A few loan signings now could just help us survive the drop.
Top of the list would be a keeper who can kick a ball and a left-back that doesn't make mistakes, although to be fair after today's shambles we need about eight new players.
The effort and determination is there, the players should be commended for that but the quality is missing.
Gary Sawyer made several mistakes but luckily got away with it. Summerfield really struggled on the poor pitch and was largely anonymous. Fletcher looked the best of a bad bunch but was subbed - perhaps he had an injury?
McNamee made a difference at right-back when he came on and could start the next game. The Barnes and Fallon partnership just didn't work but neither did the pairing of Fallon and Gow.
Palace even beat us on transfer emabrgo's this season and subsequently only named five subs!
Back to the drawing board.
Larrieu 5, Duguid 6, Arnason 6, Barker 6, Sawyer 4, Judge 7, Fletcher 7 (Folly 4), Summerfield 4 (McNamee 7), Clark 6, Barnes 5 (Gow 5), Fallon 5.
Subs not used: Saxton, Noone, Mason, Wright-Phillips.