We have managed just four points away from home, we were clearly lucky to win at Doncaster, we failed to score against Forest who had been letting in goals for fun until we rolled into town. If you take away the points we won at Doncaster and at home to Swansea (another game we were a little lucky to win) and if we had played Reading this weekend rather than before they settled back in this division, and lost, we would have 1 point. Watford in forth from bottom have eight points (three from us).
We were completely over run for the first twenty minutes of both halves tonight and during that period of the second forty five we conceded the only goal Palace were ever going to need. During the last twenty minutes of the first half we seemed to settle, but we were still playing with ten men behind the ball. Even when Varney (who ran his lungs dry all night) won a ball there was no one within twenty yards for the second ball. It wasn't all long ball stuff, but it wasn't cultured football either.
After making such a statement about changing things about Pardew merely dropped Andy Gray for Darren Ambrose. I can understand a defensive approach to an away game, and we nearly kept a clean sheet, but if we were still playing now we wouldn't have scored. That statement would also be true if you are reading this on Wednesday afternoon.
If you look at our nine league games and the Yeovil home game we have beaten Reading in a game that could have gone either way, but in which, to be fair, we looked good, but all the other wins could easily have been draws (or defeats) and I don't believe that we were unlucky in any of the games we lost. We had Youga sent off at Watford, but it was nearly half time and we were losing anyway.
Week after week I try to justify why we have won just nine of the last 34 league games; why we have not won back to back games since December; and how that can be turned into promotion winning form. We need to win four wins on the bounce while Wolves lose four on the bounce to catch them, and we have only played nine games. We are now four points away from sixth place, and there are ten teams with three points (one win) more than us and it is taking us on average 3.77 games to pick up a win - based on the last 34 games.
I think the saddest statistic is that I fear our season so much right now that I was less bothered about losing to Palace than I was about not picking up any points. I know we only need to go on a run and we will climb the table, but Pardew had been promising this for over a year now and we look no nearer to it happening.
I did say that I would not criticise Pardew until at least Christmas, and I am going to try to stick to that, but I would like to float a couple of questions:
- Is Pardew getting the best out of his squad?
- Is the squad good enough?
If the answer to either of these questions is no (and one of them needs to be) then Pardew has a problem. If he is not getting the best of his squad then would it not be sensible to find someone that can? If the squad is not good enough then is that not Pardew's fault? I know we have had some forced sales this summer but I think Magic and Big Chris are the only two that we might have wanted to keep. We kept ZZ (who to be fair hasn't been fit to play as of yet) and did sign Hudson and Bailey - and Bouazza for Thomas. We have also brought in Craine and Primus.
I just don't know what the answer is, but unless Pardew gets it right soon we will have to write off this season as a promotion campaign and settle in for the first season with no parachute payments. The likelihood is that at least one of the three teams that came down last season will not go up so that makes four who will have parachute payments next season. You have to expect Sheff utd to have more money too. If I'm honest I just can't find any justification for Pardew's failure to get us promoted in these two seasons. It could all change against Ipswich on Saturday, but I fear that a defeat will force the board to make a decision. I know we can always storm into the play offs in the last six games of the season, but if we rely on that we are pretty much sticking our heads in the sand.
So a poor performance and a defeat against the team I want to beat most in the whole league (probably the world), and back to back defeats for the third time in ten matches. It's no wonder I am feeling a little disappointed right now.
Still there is always Saturday, and my sons horrendous run of defeats must end sooner or later.