Practice pays off for Damien Delaney as he finds the net in Crystal Palace win at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Defender Damien Delaney hailed the flawless execution of a training ground routine which saw him net a rare Crystal Palace goal at Carrow Road.
The centre-back took advantage of some incredibly lapse Norwich City defending from a corner to put the Eagles 2-0 ahead in Norfolk. Alex Neil was critical of his troops' efforts in the build-up to Delaney's first Premier League strike in more than a year. But the Irishman was quick to point out he and his team-mates deserved equal amounts of praise for their excellent invention.
The 34-year-old, who tucked home Pape Soure's header from close range after he'd been picked out by set-piece taker Jason Puncheon, said: 'I'm one that if I get time to think about things (in front of goal) I'm not very good. But the ball came at me really quickly, so I just reacted, which was for the best really.
'That's probably me done for goals (laughing). I wasn't surprised at all as we've been working on that one from Tuesday. I was pleased for Keith Millen (assistant) because it was his idea. We spent an hour in total all week from Tuesday to Friday working on it. There was a lot of responsibility on Punch (Puncheon) to put the ball on the money. In fairness to him he put it right exactly where it should have been.
'Pape was supposed to head it down to give us all a chance if it didn't go in directly, then hopefully one of us was going to get on the end of it. We do spend a lot of time on things that like. Some people might find it monotonous or boring but we don't mind that because last season we scored something like 23 goals from set plays. That's why we don't mind spending an extra half an hour after training and working on those things.'
Delaney's early-second half goal doubled the visitors' advantage after Wilfried Zaha had struck late in the opening 45 minutes to put the Selhurst Park outfit in the ascendency. Nathan Redmond's long-range drive pulled Norwich back into the match but despite two huge scares – Cameron Jerome seeing a goal controversially disallowed and Sebastien Bassong having a strong penalty appeal turned down – the former Ipswich Town man was never in doubt the Eagles would be returning to London with three top-flight points.
'Listen, it was just great to score so we could get a two-goal cushion,' said Delaney – whose team wrapped up a 3-1 triumph thanks to summer signing Yohan Cabaye's late slot.
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'Even though Norwich pulled a goal back and had a lot of spells of possession, where they were very good, I always felt comfortable. We've been in those situations many times before over the last couple of years in the Premier League so there was no need to panic or show distress. We were always kind of in control. I know they had the disallowed goal and things but I always felt comfortable-ish that we were going to see it out.'
The opening-day success has further heightened belief that Palace can build on a cracking end to last campaign and challenge for a Europa League finish. The skipper was in upbeat mood about his side's chances following the strengthening of their squad this summer.
But he was also quick to praise compatriot Joel Ward's role in helping convince referee Simon Hooper to not allow Jerome's equaliser to stand with the score delicately poised at 2-1.
Delaney added: 'Wardy done brilliantly. He went hard enough to stick his head in where he made it look dangerous. I think if he'd have shied away from it a little bit we'd have been in danger.
'He gave the referee a decision to make and fortunately for us it went our way. Wardy asked the question with his brave defending. Not many people would have stuck their head in there because we all saw Cammy lining up an overhead kick long before it was there. We're pleased to start with a win. But we know there's 37 more big games to go so we'll have to wait and see how that pans out.'