After winning the away game at Palace last October (on exactly the same weekend as this season) by three goals to one, with goals from Jenkinson, Lanzini, and Payet, we looked well set to repeat the feat when we met them at Upton Park in the return fixture in April. In the home fixture, after conceding an early goal following a mistake from Adrian, Lanzini scored our first, and then Payet scored with one of his sublime free-kicks, this one going to the same side where the Palace keeper was standing. The match changed when Kouyate was sent off in the second half, and then Palace equalised a few minutes later. The decision was harsh and was later rescinded on appeal. But it was too late then for us to win this game!
The referee in both of the games was Mark Clattenburg. At Selhurst Park he sent off a Palace player, so he evened it up by sending off one of our players in the return. In fact he has quite a record of dismissing players in games when he referees us, although he is not on a par with Jonathan Moss.
Last season was a season of two halves for Palace. At Christmas they sat in fifth place in the Premier League, but in the New Year they came down with the Christmas decorations (a feat we have managed once or twice, though not as often as some people believe). By the time we met them at the beginning of April they had plummeted to fifteenth and were on the verge of getting involved in the relegation dogfight. But they were OK in the end, and also reached the Cup Final where they (unluckily?) lost to a late goal against Manchester United, a game remembered for the Pardew dance when Palace scored.
We’ve only met the Eagles 22 times in league games in the top flight of English football, mainly because they have not often been in the top division until recent times. We have won nine of the games, drawn eight, and lost just five. Only two of those five defeats have been at Selhurst Park, in 1995 and 2013, on both occasions by the only goal in the game. This will be our sixth top flight game against them in the month of October and they have never beaten us in this month of the year; in fact they’ve only drawn once. So that’s a good omen. Or perhaps it is not?
I’ve been to Selhurst Park twice. The first time was in October 1970 when we drew 1-1 thanks to a goal from Bobby Howe. I was back there the following October when Rod Stewart topped the charts with Maggie May. We won the game comfortably 3-0, with goals from Ade Coker, Billy Bonds and Clyde Best. Back in those days the Palace colours were actually claret and blue, but shortly afterwards they changed to the red and blue you see today.
Do you know what the most popular score in West Ham league matches last season? Very unusually it was 2-2. We drew more matches 2-2 than any other team in the Premier League. It happened seven times. Manchester United didn’t manage a single 2-2 draw. In three seasons in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce we only had four 2-2 draws. In total in 2015-16 we drew 14 of our 38 games (37%), which was more than any other team in the Premier League.
Last season against Palace we won 3-1 away and drew 2-2 at home. The season before that we won 3-1 away and lost 3-1 at home to them. Where is all this leading to? Well for a start in recent times we seem to favour 2-2 draws. In addition, the last four games against Palace have all had four goals in them. This is leading me towards believing that we are destined to draw 2-2 at Selhurst Park this weekend. Based on the early games of this season for both sides, then this would seem to be a good result for us, and certainly one that is not anticipated by the pundits. Nevertheless getting my optimistic hat out once again I am hoping for even more. Perhaps there will be four goals in the game, and we will win 3-1?