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Up And Down

In the space of a week, the feelings after our first two league games couldn’t be more different. After a fantastic win away to Leeds in our first game, we let ourselves down at home to Barnsley on Saturday. Personally my two performances couldn’t have been in more contrast. I had a really good game at Leeds and set a good bench mark for myself, but let myself down against Barnsley and had a very average game.

Hopefully I have got the ‘bad day at the office’ out my system early and I can now try and push back up to the high level I set myself and get some consistency.

Our game away to Leeds on the first day of the season was a fantastic achievement for us. I don’t think many people really expected us to get a result up there, so to come back with a two goal cushion was really pleasing. It showed that the win wasn’t luck, and we deserved exactly what we got.

From the start the preparation was spot on and the feeling was really good going into the game. We travelled up the day before, stopping off at Leicester City on the way to train, and to help break up the journey. Friday training sessions don’t really consist of a lot, we did a bit of 11 v 11 before the starting team worked on set pieces whilst the subs did a bit more work. It was a good session and we were soon on our way to Leeds.

We stayed in a really top hotel that had everything we needed which helped us all feel comfortable. Little things like the quality of the hotel can have a massive effect on how you perform. Staying in a nice place puts you in a good mood and I think it can really help you have a positive effect on the game. We arrived at the hotel about 5pm and after settling in for about half an hour we went to the pool for a short swim before having dinner and then having complete rest in our rooms.

Academy Match: Crystal Palace v Leeds United

The game itself was a very tough one as we expected, but we more than matched them in terms of grit and determination and managed to pull off the good result. We went into half time 1-0 down after they scored a fortuitous goal that rebounded off the post straight to their striker in the box. There were four of our players in the box and only one Leeds player, so it was unlucky for us that it fell straight to him.

We didn’t let it affect us and we kept our heads up and had a couple of chances to get back on level terms before half time. Unfortunately the forwards didn’t take their chances and we had to settle for 1-0.

We altered our tactics at half time and this proved to be key for us, as we really opened Leeds up and got in behind time and time again. Kyle De-Silva scored the first goal for us which was a very scrappy goal. The ball came in from a corner and Leeds didn’t deal with it. It seemed to stay in the box for ages, bobbling all over the place before Kyle struck it home. He deserved the goal as he was playing well and it was plain to see it lifted his confidence.

Once that goal went in I just knew we’d go on and win the game. The goal gave us such a huge lift and gave us the confidence and that little boost to push on and keep going. We continued with the changed tactics and they couldn’t live with it. You won’t find a more mobile or quick pair of strikers in the league than our own Rhys and Ibra, and we played to their strengths. Ibra scored the next two goals for us which were good finishes, and gave us the 3-1 win we deserved. We defended for our lives for the last 5-10 minutes, putting our bodies on the line to protect the lead. I was very happy with how I done and didn’t think there was much I did wrong.

Academy Match: Crystal Palace v Barnsley

As I said, that’s in stark contrast to how I performed on Saturday against Barnsley. Unlike some players about, I am very modest and will rarely sing my own praises. When I don’t perform well I have no problem in putting my hands up in saying I wasn’t good enough. I just think it was one of them games to be honest; I can’t really put my finger on it. Sometimes things just don’t feel right.

We started the game on fire with Aaron Akuruka scoring from a free kick in the first couple of minutes. We’ve been working on that free kick for the past couple of weeks so it was good to see us profit from it. It was a fantastic ball in from Jonny Williams who was probably our best player on the day.

We definitely should have built on this lead as we had some fantastic chances to score again. If we go on and get number two and three then it takes the pressure off everyone and we can play without a bit of fear. At 1-0 you’re still looking over your shoulder and still playing with that caution.

As always, it’s so easy to blame defenders for not keeping a clean sheet or not doing better, but the same must apply for the attackers when they have goal scoring opportunities. Missing a golden chance is just as bad a crime as a mistake at the back. Fair play if it’s a half chance and it isn’t taken, fine, but we had two golden chances to score.

We conceded three sloppy goals that we can’t afford to if we want to win this league. We done the hard work for them and gifted them three goals. Three mistakes, three goals. We didn’t create enough chances in the second half and didn’t put Barnsley under enough pressure. To be fair to them they battled hard and sat deep which cut off our threat of hurting them in behind.

They must have done their research on us as they seemed to know exactly what we were doing at times. They matched us like for like in the diamond, man-marked Kyle De-Silva and played with a deep defensive line. They were lucky they did play deep as they were cart-horses at the back and would have got punished.

It didn’t help that the ref made some shocking decisions and lost control of the game from early on. Even the Barnsley striker was laughing with me saying how they were getting everything there way. We have to keep on playing regardless of the ref, but when everything is going against it does seem nigh on impossible.

I think we just have to put it down as ‘one of those days’ and make sure we turn things around in our next game against Watford. They beat us 2-0 in our last game of pre-season so we will have to improve again to get a positive result.

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