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View from the South Stand - Crystal Palace 18/03/12

We're beginning to wonder why we put ourselves through this. Before every Crystal Palace game we seek out a Palace fan (not via Groupon surprisingl) and ask them a set of questions.

Without fail, they predict a victory for the men in red and blue usually by a clear two goal margin, we laugh and then lo and behold it comes to pass.

Will this time be any different? We certainly hope so as it is about time our old friend Stephen Bridle got some egg on his face

Unfortunately you guys are still well in the hunt for promotion. Can it happen this season automatically or through the play-offs?
Automatically is the aim and my personal expectation. I could do without the stress of the play-offs if I'm honest. Realistically it's going to be tough. The gap has closed between Cardiff and the rest and there's still plenty of points left in it for them to drop into the playoffs. I see Watford and Cardiff as our main competitors but there are other teams in the running for the top two spots. Of course Hull are still getting the results, but they're so boring to watch it'd be a travesty if they made it. I've got them pegged to drop away.

You went through a bit of a stutter when Dougie departed for the glamour of Bolton, but things seem to have settled down now. What do you think of the job Ian Holloway is doing?

After Dougie left we carried on our streak for another 7 games before we lost to Leeds away. But yeah, we had our mid-season stutter but are starting to pick up again as everything's drawing to a close.  Holloway is doing well. He's kept us in the top 6 throughout his reign so far and I'm confident he'll get us up. He's got us playing attractive football. A few of his team selections have had me scratching my head at times but I think he's the guy to get us up.

Wilfred Zaha is off come the end of the campaign. How much do you think that will effect Palace next season?

It's sad we won't get to see Wilf's outrageous flicks and tricks next season, but he's not irreplaceable. Of course it'll effect us as he's a brilliant outlet to have - give him the ball and he'll invariably do something unexpected and magnificent with it. He does have a habit of drifting in and out of games though. That won't be missed. But the way we play means that we will be able to bring someone else in to do his job - perhaps not as spectacularly - but we've got other players for that. 

It's not just Zaha who has been impressive this season. Will Palace be able to hang onto the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Jonathan Williams and FFS Murray come the summer?

I think we'll hang on to all three. Bolasie loves it here, and he's playing the best football in his career and there's something about our set-up that's allowing him to do that. He was handed his first international call up for DR Congo in January but turned it down to stay at Palace. Murray is so important to the way we play he'd be a big miss. Not just the goals he scores but the effort he puts in holding up the ball and bringing our midfield in to play. He's got a year left on his contract and he's currently in talks for an extension. Williams is the best player I've ever seen pull on a Palace shirt. He's so good and shows so much promise it's actually scary. You can tell how much he loves the club as he celebrates every goal we score like he's just earned a hat-trick. He's a smart lad and he's not played that many games for us yet. He knows his best chance of making it is at a place who will nurture his talent and Palace are proven to be one of the best in the country for doing that. There will be so much speculation, and it's started already, but he's tied down long term. I think he'll be in a Palace shirt at least until the end of next season and if we gain promotion we could see him around for a while yet.

What's been your impression of Stephen Dobbie since he moved to Selhurst?

He wasn't at his best last time out against Leeds, but he's certainly impressed. He's slotted right in and has the right footballing brain to play within our system and his relationship with Holloway has allowed him to blend in seamlessly. Will he be missed when we play you? I don't think so. We've got an incredibly strong midfield - arguably the best in the league - and there are plenty who can step into his place. 

Whisper it quietly, but most Brighton fans appreciate just what you've achieved this season on a pretty low budget. What does it come down to?

More than anything it's belief. The run at the beginning of the season set the tone. The fans, the staff, the players - everyone connected with the club - knows we're good enough. We've also made some brilliant signings this season. Some diamonds in the rough. The balance of our squad is also a massive factor. We've got young, hungry players bolstered by some real experience heads who've played international football at high levels. On the pitch we have a mixture of no-nonsense players like Jedinak and Murray who go out and get a job done and some incredibly creativity with the likes of Zaha, Williams and Moritz.

How would Palace fans feel about us two meeting at some stage in the play-offs?

It'd certainly be interesting. Can you imagine that as a final? What a day out. Plus Wembley isn't too far away so it'd be a short trip back south of the river for the celebrations. I don't think you'll get into the playoffs though, so it's quite unlikely to happen.

There will be a record Amex attendance packed in on Sunday. How do Palace fans feel about their second trip to The Amex?

I can't speak for everyone, but I'm confident. I'm looking forward to everything bar catching the bloody train home. Seriously, you need to sort that out. Why do you think it is that in three meetings so far, Gus Poyet has failed to register a win over you guys? Because we've been the better team when we've played you. The 3-0 at Selhurst could've been closer. I reckon we'd still have won 11 v 11; but I'm disappointed we didn't win by a far bigger margin because you were there for the taking with 10 men.  Freedman set his team up to be difficult to beat and Poyet just couldn't work out how to break us down. With Holloway we're set up to outscore the opposition. We try to overload opposition teams and with 10 men you just can't do much about that.  I'm sure you lot love him, but I wouldn't want Poyet in charge of us. Even if he didn't have the Brighton connection. I just don't rate him. It's his attitude more than anything.

And finally, a prediction please (no 5-0, 3-0 or 3-1 allowed!)

2-0 Palace.

Many thanks to Stephen for his insight into the forthcoming fixture. He seems to be pretty confident of a Palace victory, so if it's the Albion celebrating a famous win get Tweeting to @stephenbridle

 


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