Ward eyes final outing
Joel Ward is determined to earn his first FA Cup final appearance when Crystal Palace meet Watford in today's semi-final at Wembley, having previously twice missed out. The defender was a Portsmouth player when they defeated Cardiff in the final in 2008 and lost to Chelsea in 2010, but was a long way from the first team on both occasions.
He played in Palace's victorious 2013 Championship play-off final against Watford at Wembley - when he blocked a shot on the line in extra-time to help secure promotion - but, having been peripheral on two occasions in the past, wants to capitalise on an opportunity he had long been optimistic would still arise.
"I was there on the day (in 2008). I was actually out on loan that season at Bournemouth, but I was present for the final," the 26-year-old recalls. "I was more involved two years later when I tagged along with the squad to the semi and the final. It was incredible to be involved with. But I wouldn't say I was involved in either of them in any shape or form.
"I was a young player coming through and the main thing for me was to try and be involved towards the end of the season. I'd just come back from injury. You're almost slightly detached from it all, being a young player. It was great being involved and being there, but in the back of everyone's mind was the fact it was devastating to be relegated and the way the club was going. It was a bad time at the club, with administration and the way things were."
Ward, alongside Yannick Bolasie, Scott Dann and Joe Ledley, has been passed fit for today's fixture, having missed Wednesday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester United because of a minor injury.
Without his influence on the last occasion Palace reached Wembley, in 2013, they may not have clinched their return to the top flight. Recalling his crucial clearance, he said: "I can pick out little bits from it, but I think it was just an incredible, incredible experience. It was a turning point for the club and a great step forward for the club. We've got great foundations here. There's a bright future in front of us."
Crystal Palace v Watford
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