Eagles need to improve away points tally if they are to stay up

Wimbledon Guardian: Tony Pulis. Picture by Edmund Boyden. Tony Pulis. Picture by Edmund Boyden.

With some tough home fixtures coming up, Eagles columnist WILL TAYLOR feels Crystal Palace need to start picking up wins on the road – and quickly.

Palace went into Saturday's game at the Stadium of Light with a point to prove, but sadly they came away with only that - a point.

This was a Sunderland side collapsed on the ropes, still reeling from their Wembley woe and an emphatic FA Cup exit at the hands of Hull.

Instead of looking to stick the knife in, apply salt to the exposed wound or perhaps mount a meaningful attack, Tony Pulis' players lifted their shields and awaited an onslaught.

I sighed, tutted and cursed my way through an utterly frustrating 90 minutes, before falling to my knees when KG spurned a glorious chance to snatch a late winner.

The stalemate means the Eagles have failed to score in open play during any of their last four games and it's not difficult to see why.

The midfield trio of Mile Jedinak, Joe Ledley and the aforementioned KG are not ball-playing maestros capable of igniting attacks from the back.

Their sole purpose is to regain possession, it's not a pretty job but it's one that Pulis prides above all else, especially in the midst of a relegation battle.

This means five-yard passes are hit astray, through balls are delayed and there is often a genuine sense of panic when we enter the final third.

Yet so much energy is spent chasing shadows and contesting loose balls, it's no surprise we struggle when the mentality of the team shifts from defence to attack.

Many supporters have asked for the recall of the technically-gifted Barry Bannan or the eager-to-impress Dwight Gayle, but unfortunately Pulis will always prefer a physical presence over poise and grace on the ball.

Further up the pitch there is still too much pressure placed upon Glenn Murray.

Pulis has rather foolishly hailed last season's 31-goal hero as our saviour, when it's clear he'll struggle to flourish following his debilitating injury.

Murray operates best in the moments before a defence-splitting pass or whipped cross is pinged his way, drifting free of his marker and coming to life in the penalty area.

But without sufficient support, Murray has been battered into submission with long, aimless balls fired towards in the hope he'll give our defenders a moments peace.

Jason Puncheon, Tom Ince and Yannick Bolasie have flickered between the brilliant and the benign recently and I fail to see how Pulis can change that.

He has worked wonders to install discipline and organisation at the back, but the same predictable, unyielding mindset is unlikely to bear fruit up front.

Perhaps we will look back on this as a crucial point come May.

Aside from a super-charged Borini hitting the bar, and a couple of fine yet ultimately regulation stops for Speroni, the Black Cats rarely threatened.

This was dubbed ‘must win’ for Sunderland but must ‘not lose’ for Palace, so in many respects it is mission accomplished.

There may even be a better opportunity for three points in Tyneside this weekend.

Newcastle have no Alan Pardew, no remarkable reinforcements in January and almost nothing to play for with European football slipping out of reach.

Yet Pulis has insisted we must win our games at home to ensure survival.

Palace only have four games left at Selhurst Park including Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and a rapidly-improving Aston Villa.

It’s clear to me that our away form that will prove pivotal in our relegation run-in.

Follow @NewsShopperSprt on Twitter for live updates from Newcastle v Crystal Palace on Saturday

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