Twenty five years ago, Alan Pardew secured his place in Crystal Palace folklore with the winning goal at Villa Park in a 4-3 FA Cup semi-final victory at Liverpool. He was back at the ground where he made his name yesterday, smartly dressed, sporting black spectacles, but it was quite a different story.
This was a turgid game where Palace’s attacking weaknesses were laid bare for all to see. Pardew did not need the reporters’ notebook he had brought with him to record what the problem is, the statistics tell their own story: two goals in the last seven games.
Pardew was expected to tie up the loose ends of his switch to Selhurst Park last night and take formal training today. You would suspect shooting practice will be his top priority.
Palace remain in the bottom three after this goalless affair, but at least they showed a certain amount of fighting spirit to claim a second consecutive draw under caretaker Keith Millen, who has been told he has a future at the club.
“We were not sure whether Alan would be coming before the game but I got a message and I thought it was right the lads knew,” said Millen.
“He had no input in the game but came down to see the players. He was pleased but said we need to add more to our game.
“We need to score more goals to stay in the division. He was pleased and proud. He has seen us play before so knows what we are about. He knows we need a different dimension. We need to add something else to our game.
“He’s said to me he wants me to stay. I don’t think he would have been at the game today if he was sitting in the stands.
“We’re preparing for him to come into tomorrow.
“I’m sure he will have talked to the chairman about transfers, we all know we need to bring in players.”
Palace had just the one decent chance but they should have scored early in the first half as Yannick Bolasie raced through a Villa defence as if they were not there.
“He went one-on-one with Brad Guzan but could only hit the underside of the bar.
But Villa were extremely poor in that department too and themselves have scored just once in five matches. Even with that said, they should have seen Palace off given their dominance of the play.
Alan Hutton was denied by an on-song Julian Speroni after opposite full back Aly Cissokho appeared to have laid a goal on a plate for him.
Villa were booed off at both half and full-time and you can understand the frustrations of their crowd.
Christian Benteke appears to be a shadow of the player he used to be and he missed a fine chance from Carlos Sanchez’ cross from 12 yards out, while the excellent Speroni saved well to deny Leandro Bacuna from a free kick.
Manager Paul Lambert had lost captain Ron Vlaar early in the game to a reoccurrence of a knee injury he sustained during the World Cup.
He will know more on the length of time he will be out of action today but it will almost certainly mean he will remain a Villa player for the rest of the season, scuppering any potential move elsewhere.
“I’m not 100% sure about Ron but we think it is knee, it’s the same as the World Cup,” said Lambert.
“We’re creating chances, the chances are there. I think our possession was 70-30 but we need the finishing touch.”
ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Guzan 6; Hutton 7, Okore 6, Vlaar 5 (Clark 15, 6), Cissokho 7; Bacuna 7, Sanchez 6, Cleverley 5 (Grealish 64, 6); Weimann 4 (Cole 83), Agbonlahor 5, Benteke 5.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-5-1): Speroni 8; Mariappa 5, Dann 7, Delaney 7, Kelly 6; Bolasie 5, Ward 6, Ledley 5, McAthur 7 (Bannan 90), Puncheon 6; Zaha 5 (Gayle 62, 6).
Referee: Robert Madley 6.