On the Cross verdict: Palace 3 Saints 0

Last updated : 09 December 2008 By Chris C

Despite this being a second game in 48 hours, Poortvliet kept the same side that faded after 45 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday with all too predictable results in front of our nemisis the Sky cameras.

Quite why Jason Euell's power and experience were still not even on the bench remains a mystery. Poortvliet kept faith with Robertson after another disappointing performance when the fresh legs of Patterson might have been a better option.

First half - still asleep

Saints started as if they had been playing for the last 48 hours and could have been behind within a minute bar either a wonder challenge or a clear penalty by Rudi Skacel depending on the club you support.

Palace didn't have long to wait though to open their account with one of the softest goals conceded even by our notoriously porous defence. Supposedly our stongest defender, Pearce, was brushed aside with ease by Kuqi who strolled towards the unprotected Davies almost in slow motion. For once the fingertip heroics of Davis failed to keep it out.

Things got even worse on fifteen minutes when more trademark set piece disorganisation left Beattie in acres of space to direct an accurate volley into the top corner from ten yards. How we could have done with our own James Beattie back to lead the line.

Effectively that was game over as Palace sat back and let Saints pitter-patter around with the ball in front of them, even if it made pleasant viewing. The problem was that Saints would look to break at pace only for several passes too many to slow things down and allow Palace to regain their shape.

Given we were playing physically stronger opponents the chances of us breaking through their defensive line were slim.

Second half - walking pace

The second half was more of the same with Palace content to pick us off on the break and Saints once again toothless in attack.

Surman might have got a goal back for Saints when an impressive driving run into the box was followed by a chip under pressure that might have gone in had it not been travelling at one mile an hour. It summed the night up for us.

James was unfortunate that his poor touch went straight to Ifil, but he should have punted it back downfield instead of trying to emulate Jack Cork's grace on the ball in defence.

On the Cross verdict

After four games unbeaten this was a big step backwards for the youngsters some of whom frankly deserve a rocket after that lacklustre performance.

Quite whether they will get it from Poortvliet is another matter who looked typically puzzled afterwards, but must take some of the blame for not shuffling his side and for not getting them all fully up for the game.

The defence has steadily improved in recent times, but all of the hard work looked undone as Palace, led by the rejuvenated Kuqi, powered their way through our backline and could have extended their three goal victory with more clinical finishing.

Perhaps we can put it down to an off-day for the defence with Pearce possibly carrying an injury, but more of a concern was the toothless attack and pedestrian midfield, Drew Surman aside.

Far too often Saints broke at pace only for too many passes sidewards to give Palace time to get back in numbers. Perhaps in the midfield's defence with so little in front of them in terms of movement and aggression this seemed the better option.

A settled line-up is generally a positive, but surely Poortvliet must reshuffle an attack that has been misfiring for too long now. Whatever financial or tactical reasons are keeping Euell out of the side must be put aside, as even if he is to be sold in January, Saints need his influence now to add power and experience to an attack short on confidence.

Saints now face in-form Burnley at the weekend and go into the match serious underdogs, a position which has led to some of their best football, most notably against Reading. It better had after that performance.