West Ham 0 Crystal Palace 1 match report: Palace safe as Mile Jedinak completes the great escape for Tony Pulis
Palace are now automatically safe from the drop but Hammers fans continue their relentless assault on Allardyce's tactics by booing substitutions and at the final whistle
Sam Allardyce said on the eve of this match that Tony Pulis of Crystal Palace deserved to be voted manager of the year and his West Ham team could do nothing yesterday to spoil the Welshman’s chances of landing the award.
The Eagles won their fifth match in succession, their best such run in the Premier League since 1992, to celebrate in style on the day their survival in the top flight was confirmed. They had already reached the 40-point mark that usually guarantees safety by winning at Everton in midweek, and if this was a less notable scalp, then the fans who can now look forward for the first time to consecutive seasons in the Premier League era did not seem to mind.
West Ham would have joined them with a win, but that seldom looked likely in a poor game that Palace edged.
Whether Pulis had advance knowledge of the Cardiff City team before Palace’s 3-0 win in Wales remains unproven, but there was no need to spy out the West Ham side or their methods – everything was aimed at the head of Andy Carroll as usual and Palace stood up to that challenge with few problems.
Pulis, never relegated, was on a reported seven-figure bonus to keep Palace up and he can look forward to investing some of it in upgrading his trademark baseball cap.
“Everyone was telling me not to do it except Peter Coates [his former chairman at Stoke City] and Sir Alex Ferguson,” Pulis said of his decision to take Palace’s offer in November. “But I knew there were enough games left. It has been a remarkable turnaround and everyone at the club has bought into what we have tried to do.”
The home fans jeered West Ham off, unhappy with what Allardyce admitted was “a disappointing game,” even though the day’s other results suggest that only a major mishap can relegate them, with three points technically needed from their three remaining games.
Allardyce will hope for a season free of the injuries, especially in defence, that made the present campaign more of a struggle than he expected, but he also needs to find a plan B when teams are capable of standing up to Carroll’s aerial threat. The forward drew a flying save from Julian Speroni in the first half, and felt he should have had a penalty when Palace captain Mile Jedinak clearly nudged him out of the path of a cross that was bound for his forehead, but he waned as West Ham struggled in the second half.
Palace, in contrast, looked relaxed and attacked with enterprise throughout. Yannick Bolasie had the beating of George McCartney, a left back playing out of position on the right, and he won a series of corner-kicks. From one, Carroll, clumsily but effectively, got in the way of Kagisho Dikgacoi’s goal-bound header, and from another right-back Adrian Mariappa’s shot was blocked, apparently by the arm of the diving Kevin Nolan.
Carroll, increasingly well-marshalled by the Palace defence, found fewer and fewer chances to press his England claims, and pulled his best second-half chance weakly wide after Stewart Downing’s cross somehow found its way past the entire Palace back four.
And Palace got the goal they deserved in the 58th minute when Cameron Jerome fell after the slightest of contacts from Pablo Armero. Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and Jedinak converted the penalty with relish. Only Chelsea (14) have conceded fewer goals than Palace (20) in the period Pulis has been in charge, so the chances of West Ham pulling level were poor.
“We think there was a blatant penalty against Andy Carroll but he didn’t give it and breaking Crystal Palace down was never going to be easy as you can see by the teams they’ve beaten,” Allardyce said. “So the last thing we needed to do was give a soft penalty away. It was a silly challenge and we’ve paid a heavy price.”
Palace could have added to their lead in the 67th minute but three players failed to get a shot in as West Ham defenders chased forlornly after them. The visiting fans chanted Pulis’s name, and the home fans gave Allardyce a chorus of: “You don’t know what you’re doing” when he took off Matt Jarvis for Carlton Cole, giving an increasingly ideas-free West Ham midfield two tall but ineffective target men to aim for.
“We’ve played good football and could have had three or four goals,” Pulis said of Palace’s first top-division double over West Ham. “This is a different team from what I had at Stoke, I think an exciting team.”
“When you have a chance to score you gave to take it and our finishing was pretty miserable,” Allardyce concluded. “The gap makes it look like we’re not under too much points pressure, but we are under pressure because we’ve lost three in a row.”
West Ham Utd (4-3-3): Adrian; McCartney, Tomkins, Reid, Armero; Noble , Nolan (Nocerino, 85), Diamé; Downing (J Cole, 78), Carroll, Jarvis (C Cole, 70).
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Dikgacoi, Jedinak; Puncheon (Gabbidon, 87), Ledley, Bolasie (Parr, 90); Jerome (Murray, 82).
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the match: Bolasie (Crystal Palace).
Match rating: 5/10.
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