Friday 23 February 2018

It's a happy return for Pulis as Baggies edge closer to survival

Crystal Palace 0-2 West Brom

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew

Ben Findon

Having rescued Crystal Palace from their bleak predicament last season, Tony Pulis is poised to complete the salvation of West Bromwich Albion after returning to Selhurst Park to win the battle of the miracle workers with Alan Pardew.

Pardew has rightly taken the plaudits - indeed some manager-of-the-year nominations as well - for pulling Palace out of another nosedive this season, but this was Pulis' day, right from the moment that he received warm applause from the home fans, through a disciplined display by his players and on to a magnanimously conducted press conference to round it all off.

Pulis inherited a troubled Albion at the turn of the year, after Alan Irvine's reign was terminated following a run of seven defeats in nine games.

The Hawthorns hierarchy were banking on Pulis' proud record of having never been relegated, and their faith looks certain to be rewarded after an early goal from James Morrison and a spectacular strike by Craig Gardner ended Palace's run of four successive victories.

After recent home flops against lowly Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City, this was exactly what was needed to steady the ship.

"I'm not sure how many points you will need but we have been talking about 40 points all season," said Pulis, whose side now stand just four short of that target.

"A couple of bad results was down to us believing social media saying 'get to 33 points'.

"You get complacent and we are not good enough to be complacent. I still think we need a couple of points, and we need to get them as quick as possible."

Albion avoided any moments of madness to grind out a victory on Saturday that was built on maximum concentration levels.

Palace pressed constantly, the point of attack, switching from flank to flank, where Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie were both a constant threat. Bolasie forced a superb reflex save from Boaz Myhill in the first half, but the goals that have been coming so easily for Palace in recent weeks have, at least temporarily, dried up.

The home side paid a high price for leaving Morrison unattended to score from Chris Brunt's corner within 100 seconds and, once Gardner had cut short Palace's high-octane start to the second half, it was Albion's day.

"It's massive," Gardner said. "We had two or three bad results on the spin and it's nice to get a win after those."

Gardner revealed that the set-piece that led to Morrison's opener had been carefully prepared by Pulis.

"It was a start we worked on all week in training and it worked perfectly," he said.

It was something of a reality check for Palace, and Pardew, whose side face Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool in the season's closing weeks, said: "We have played above ourselves at times but they are a terrific group to manage and even today I'm not disappointed with anyone. We are not a top, top team who can dominate and expect a result, like if you are Manchester City or United at home.

"We really have to focus and concentrate, and we have weaknesses that we try our best to cover up and strengths we need to build on," the former Newcastle boss added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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