Townsend spec­tac­u­lar turns screw on Dy­che

The Observer - Sport - - Football Premier League -

The por­tents for this Sel­hurst Park en­counter in terms of crackle and en­ter­tain­ment were not bright. Goals – or rather, the scarcity of them – re­mained the cen­tral ail­ment for both Crys­tal Palace and Burn­ley.

Palace fi nally ap­peared lu­mi­nous , a dis­play of ex­cep­tional style light­ing up the home fans with as­ser­tion and craft, not miss­ing an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to grab a pre­cious fi rst home league vic­tory of the sea­son. It is, af­ter all, De­cem­ber.

Con­sid­er­ing its over­all im­por­tance in the strug­gle to wrig­gle away from the drop zone, this could prove to be the Ea­gles’ sea­son- defi ning mo­ment. Hav­ing missed the chance to claim three points at Manch­ester United in their last, score­less, en­counter, they were con­fronted with an en­tirely dif­fer­ent and vi­brant propo­si­tion.

An­dros Townsend’s qual­ity sec­ond goal, af­ter James McArthur’s slightly for­tu­itous first- half opener, w as re­ward for the Palace man­ager, Roy Hodg­son. On an­other slant Wil­fried Zaha ap­peared at times to be on a solo quest in a duel against Burn­ley’s keeper Joe Hart, whose fi ne form pre­vented a maul­ing.

“It’s been a long time com­ing and I’m equally pleased with the per­for­mance,” said Hodg­son. “We haven’t been lucky at home. Re­sults have been there in the shadow and they have eluded us but to­day it didn’t. It would be a cur­mud­geonly per­son to deny Palace [ credit] to­day. It’s not of­ten you have 30 at­tempts on goal.

“This is one we needed to win but we got the points be­cause we were bet­ter from start to fi nish.”

Now in the bot­tom three, Burn­ley, mean­while, were bereft of ev­ery­thing needed for sur­vival and failed to regis­ter a sin­gle shot on tar­get. Their man­ager Sean Dy­che’s team are a dis­mal shadow of last sea­son’s seventh- placed side. From a driz­zly south Lon­don lens that heady Eu­ropa League qual­ifi cation seems a world away. It looks as if ev­ery­thing has caught up with them, with vis­its to Tot­ten­ham and Arse­nal com­ing up be­fore Christ­mas.

Dy­che re­fuses to panic. “The fear at­tached to foot­ball is an im­por­tant fac­tor ,” he said. “You need that loose­ness to act nat­u­rally . That was off to­day and in the sec­ond half they de­served it.

“The whole team per­for­mance is some­thing to think about and when fear comes into per­for­mances you soften.

“I don’t stare at the league ta­ble. We have to get back to a con­sis­tent level of per­for­mances. To­day we slipped back again and need to fi nd that con­sis­tency and per­for­mance. I knew in the sum­mer this would be a real tough sea­son.

“I think I’ve been re­ally loyal to play­ers but we’ve been dis­rupted by in­juries and it af­fects our growth as a team. We have to con­tin­u­ally re­model and re­think.”

Af­ter a zippy start , in which Max Meyer and Zaha were cre­atively prom­i­nent, Palace scored with 16 min­utes gone. McArthur clipped in what ap­peared a n in­nocu­ous low cross from the right and, with a com­bi­na­tion of the Burn­ley de­fend­ers Matt Low­ton and Kevin Long plus Palace’s Meyer fail­ing to make con­tact, the ball some­how made its way into the far cor­ner of the net.

Af­ter that Palace and Zaha pep­pered the Burn­ley goal at will but there was still con­cern at their in­abil­ity to com­plete the job un­til 12 min­utes from time. It was worth the wait . Af­ter Zaha clipped the bar Townsend , gath­er­ing up a loose ball on the right, darted in­side and shaped him­self from 20 yards be­fore rifl ing a fab­u­lous shot into the top cor­ner that not even Hart, who was on de­press­ing dam­age lim­i­ta­tion standby, could pre­vent.

Crys­tal Palace 4- 4- 2

Burn­ley 4- 4- 1- 1

PETER CZ­I­BORRA/ AC­TION IM­AGES VIA REUTERS

 An­dros Townsend steps in­side and strikes into the top cor­ner from 20 yards for Crys­tal Palace’s sec­ond

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