Crystal Palace escaped the Premier League relegation zone for the first time this season with a last-gasp 2-1 home win over Watford on Tuesday but still have a mountain to climb to avoid relegation, according to manager Roy Hodgson. Trailing to Daryl Janmaat’s third-minute goal Palace looked set for a damaging defeat that would have left them bottom, but Bakary Sako scored a fortunate equaliser after 89 minutes before Wilfried Zaha set up James McArthur for a stoppage-time winner.
The victory, Palace’s third of the season after they lost their opening seven games without scoring, moved them up to 17th place with 14 points, one more than West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United, and two above basement side Swansea City. That trio all have tough games on Wednesday so there is every chance Palace will stay out of the bottom three.
Hodgson, whose side wasted a chance to beat Bournemouth on Saturday when Christian Benteke had a stoppage-time penalty saved when he was not even supposed to have taken it, has been around too long to start counting his chickens though. “We got a late winner against Stoke as well and had disappointment on Saturday, so we’ve gone through the full range of emotions,” the 70-year-old said.
“We’ve done well in the late stages of games, so I’ve got to commend the players’ attitude and determination to keep going even when things don’t look like they’re going our way. “It is a huge three points. But the moment we think our problems are over is the moment our problems will begin.
“We have a mountain to climb and it’s wonderful to win but we’re still very close to the bottom of the table because we haven’t quite made up from getting zero points from the first seven games,” he added. All three of Palace’s wins this season have come since Hodgson replaced the sacked Frank de Boer and they have now gone six matches unbeaten, albeit drawing four of them.
Late goals have become something of a theme, one coming in the 97th minute against West Ham United in a 2-2 home draw. But Hodgson said he was revelling in his work with the squad despite the stress that comes with the job. “It is stressful but if I didn’t think I was able to take that stress then I wouldn’t have taken up the offer to come and work at this club,” he said. “The daily work with the players is as enjoyable as anything I’ve done in my career.”