Will Desperate Hull Suck Life Out Of Crystal Palace?

To Hull and back?
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Deep down we knew it could not last. Four wins on the bounce, brimming with confidence and scoring goals for fun, facing a team that had lost to the bottom two at home in the last three defeats.

The irony was that for one of the very times this season Palace enjoyed more possession than the opposition but as someone once said statistics are like bikinis - ‘what they reveal is suggestive, what they conceal is vital.’

As soon as West Brom got that early goal the match petered out, only briefly sparking to life with Gardner’s exceptional strike that condemned us to a galling, but somehow inevitable, loss.

The fall from grace, courtesy of last season’s saviour Tony Pulis, was a bitter one and partly because Pardew committed a few mistakes in his so far excellent managerial spell. He admitted pre-match that he was concerned about Pulis’ knowledge and understanding of the team and changed his approach accordingly.

Having enjoyed such a strong run surely the logical thing to do would have been to stick with what had served the team so well. But he tinkered, playing Joe Ledley at left-back, an experiment that clearly did not work, as he looked about as comfortable as a fish that has spent far too long on dry ground.

This Saturday we welcome back another former manager in the not inconsiderable shape of Steve Bruce and the hope is that we can recapture that energetic dynamism that seemed to be sucked out of the team by Pulis’ stifling Baggies.

Hull need a result even more desperately than West Brom did and that will probably mean that they will set up to defend and hit on the counter attack, which is something that we need to overcome. Making the most of having the ball for the majority of the match is going to be part of the evolution of this team.

Last Saturday Bolasie and Zaha flickered but did not create enough sustained pressure to inflict serious damage. Hull’s full-backs Robertson & Elmohamady are arguably their strongest players, so it is imperative that the wingers are at their best and can feed Murray.

Restoring Ledley to midfield would make sense even if it were at the expense of Jedinak, whose return has not been the most triumphant, while restoring Kelly to left-back would give the team more stability and balance. Winning the match will be much tougher than winning the possession battle and hopefully this will be the start of a new, dominant style of play that might move the club on to the next level.

Richard’s first book The A-Z of Football Hates is available online and in bookshops. His second book The Agony and the Ecstasy a history of the Play-Offs is due out soon.

Follow him on twitter @rcfoster