Townsend spectacular turns screw on Dyche
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
Andros Townsend steps inside and strikes into the top corner from 20 yards for Crystal Palace’s second