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  • by Julian Taylor at Selhurst Park

Underwhelming Palace slip tamely out of the cup to Rooney-inspired Derby

FA Cup Third Round

Crystal Palace 0 Derby County 1

Crystal Palace’s FA Cup hopes were dashed at third round source with a surprise defeat to Championship strugglers Derby County at Selhurst Park.

A 32nd minute goal by Chris Martin was enough to clip the Eagles’ wings, on a day where Roy Hodgson will be hugely disappointed with his team’s showing. Bereft of the usual flair and promise, the home side could not find a way past the superbly marshalled Rams.

Palace, who reached the final as recently as 2016, will view this jaded outing as one to forget as a reworked side lacked the ingenuity to break down Phillip Cocu’s men. There was a lack of conviction and sustained pressure as well as an inability to respond to going a goal down.

And a needless red card for frustrated captain Luka Milivojevic was a symptom of Palace’s mood at the game drifting away and, as a result, they never looked like constructing any reprisal.

Make no mistake, this is a real disappointment for the club, where a chance to progress in the FA Cup should have been seized. Palace simply blew it in front of a 15,507 crowd.

And with a home clash against Arsenal next Saturday, back on league duty, other than consolidation of ninth place or thereabouts, it’s hard to see where the drive is going to come from between now and the end of the season.

Naturally, the main focus of the day was on the appearance of Wayne Rooney for Derby County. The former England star was making only his second appearance for the Rams in what is expected to be a glistening Indian Summer in English football. Palace chief Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, asserted in the match day programme that the cup represented a great chance for the club within “an excellent platform to succeed where success may be less attainable elsewhere.”

The Eagles made lots of changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Norwich City in the Premier League on New Years’ Day. Wayne Hennessey was given an opportunity to start ahead of Vicente Guaita in goal, while Martin Kelly, Brandon Pierrick, Jairo Riedewald, Gary Cahill, Connor Wickham, Max Meyer, Cheik Kouyate all came in, so the hosts’ line up retained plenty of experience, albeit the absence of injured Wilfried Zaha is always going to leave this Palace side a little short on exceptional creative energy. Additionally, for Dutch defender Riedewald in particular, this was a rare start for the Eagles this term.

But it was one of the prodigies, Pierrick, whom Hodgson has placed his trust in what was his first start, who sparked the first opening of the afternoon in the fourth minute. Twisting inside the penalty area, the lively midfielder brought out a smart save from Kelle Roos, who managed to scoop the ball up at the second attempt.

Much like the diluted atmosphere – a consequence of unfortunate growing public indifference to this stage of the competition – there was little of proper note in the early stages, Derby’s Louie Sibley curling a shot over from the edge of the penalty area, as Rooney operated in a deeper role. His touches and dictation, while subtle enough, were still quite delightful.

The Rams – who arrived in south London 17th in the Championship table – were infused with increased counter attacking intent, and they went ahead in 32 minutes to shock stuttering Palace. Martin deftly flicked the ball past Hennessey from six yards, via a finely-whipped cross in from the right by Jayden Bogle with Riedewald somewhat slack in closing down the danger. It had been coming.

The hosts, struggling to build any real momentum, suffered a blow shortly after being caught cold, when Hodgson was forced to replace injured Meyer with James McArthur. And in reality, the first half display by Palace did precious little to raise the muted levels within Selhurst Park.

Could Hodgson help shift the disjointed mood during the interval? Palace needed some imagination to prise open a well organised Derby side, with Rooney screening the backline.

Roos touched away an effort from McCarthy with the Eagles attempting to engineer openings, but Jordan Ayew found himself on the receiving end of some rough treatment by the visitors and Koyate was guilty of spurning possession in good attacking areas.

Nevertheless, Palace’s intent was slightly more determined – but still nothing in the way of major threat. In fact, Derby weathered the initial second half storm and should have doubled their lead. Only the unmarked Bogle will know how he managed to head across the goalmouth when the opportunity to hit the target was far more apparent.

Referee Michael Oliver had his work cut out in the 65th minute, when he had, with the help of VAR, to deal with a midfield spat between Milivojevic and Tom Huddlestone. The upshot being that, following several minutes’ deliberation, the Eagles’ skipper was ordered off, for kicking out at the Derby playmaker.

With Palace labouring all afternoon, their task just got that much harder – and the prospects appeared increasingly bleaker. Sloppy crossing and a lack of direction characterised vast tracts of the play. And Hodgson eventually withdrew Pierrick for James Tomkins.

Too little, too late as the Rams eased out the remaining passages with substitute Martyn Waghorn even hitting the woodwork on the break. Palace will, ultimately, rue this patchy day of inaction.

Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Milivojevic, Meyer (McArthur 39), Kouyate, Ayew, Wickham, McCarthy, Cahill, Kelly, Pierrick (Tomkins 72) , Riedewald (Woods 76).

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