This was an altogether happier place for Alan Pardew than his last visit, on a rainy night last September, when his Newcastle side lost by the only goal and the visiting fans spent much of the game raucously demanding his removal.
This time, the 2,900 Palace supporters for whom the club laid on a fleet of coaches could not praise him enough after watching their team take another big stride towards Premier League safety.
Palace, now up to 11th, have won six top-flight matches out of 10 since Pardew took charge in January and even Wilfried Zaha allowed himself a smile, having responded to his manager’s demand to stop sulking by scoring for the second time in a week.
Zaha, told he should get over the hurt of his Manchester United disappointment and rebuild his career, struck what proved to be the winning goal in first-half stoppage time after Glenn Murray had flicked on a long kick from goalkeeper Julian Speroni and Palace’s performance in defending their lead was impressive under sustained Stoke pressure, with Speroni and the centre back Scott Dann outstanding.
But it was a win not gained without controversy, the referee Andre Marriner ruling in their favour at two critical moments. He punished Stoke’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic with a penalty after a collision with Yannick Bolasie, enabling Murray to equalise for Palace from the spot, then he failed to give one to Stoke in the second half after Joel Ward clearly handled the ball in blocking a shot from the Stoke scorer, Mame Biram Diouf.
“In my view the first one should have been a free-kick to us for dangerous play by Bolasie,” Mark Hugthes, Stoke’s manager, said. “In the second one their lad has two hands on the ball. Speroni was good but that was the best save of the match.”
Stoke City: (4-2-3-1) Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Nzonzi, Adam; Diouf, Ireland, Arnautovic; Crouch (Walters, 78).
Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) Speroni; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare (Kelly, 70); McArthur, Ledley; Zaha (Gayle, 80), Puncheon, Bolasie; Murray (Ameobi, 86).
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Dann (Crystal Palace)
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content