COLUMNIST Robert Sutherland is upbeat about Palace's recent performances, despite the 1-0 midweek defeat to Aston Villa...
TUESDAY'S game made painful viewing. Not because of the level of performance, but because the result was unjust – and the atmosphere at the game had a tense, expectant hint to it which (by my reckoning) contributed to the sense of frustration.
The performance itself was one of attacking intent from Palace. Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Marouanne Chamakh all did their bit to force chances, but as the game went on, the intent contorted itself into something a lot more desperate, and at 1-0 down from a defensive error, that desperation filtered through the crowd.
These kind of games will cloud judgement. They'll upset supporters because they expect to get something. All too frequently, I heard fellow supporters bemoan the fact that we won 3-1 against a poor Liverpool side and couldn't beat an even poorer Aston Villa. But it wasn't for the want of trying.
So the question is, what more could Neil Warnock do to secure a win against that team? Of course, it could – perhaps should – be argued that the lack of composure at times (such as Scott Dann's when he was confronted by Christian Benteke, or Martin Kelly when he initially passed the ball into Dann) comes from our management. The fact that we'd tried and failed to repeatedly score, the lack of calmness in key situations, could also come from Warnock and co.
But what a manager does on the training ground will only work so much on the pitch. You can prepare the squad throughout the week in the build-up to a game, but once the players step on to the Selhurst Park field, the influence a manager has will be limited. Of course, Warnock could have brought a substitute on earlier in the game. Perhaps he should have done when it became clear that Joel Ward's corners were not as effective as had been hoped. But to the sacrifice of what?
Our wing players were causing problems. Our midfield was dominant – James McArthur looks an excellent acquisition to complement the midfielders we already have – but when it came to scoring goals, we struggled. And that doesn't take the luck (or bad luck) that came into play when Palace peppered the Aston Villa goal just after conceding. Palace weren't helped by Michael Oliver's odd bias towards whatever Brad Guzan did during the second half.
Tuesday's game was one that I came away with having been frustrated by the lack of goals and the disappointment of the result, but it didn't leave me as dejected as the Sunderland game did, and it certainly wasn't the worst I'd seen us play.
Sometimes things just don't work out as we hope they will – the result against Villa is exactly one of those instances.