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Don't believe in omens: A trip to Julian Speroni's restaurant and meeting him in person was not a good sign ahead of the trip north               SP78366

Don't believe in omens: A trip to Julian Speroni's restaurant and meeting him in person was not a good sign ahead of the trip north SP78366

First published in Sport Croydon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

On Wednesday, I went to the Speroni restaurant in Purley - the food was lovely and we even had the pleasure of meeting the man himself.

The encounter felt like a good omen. Even more so after some of his solid and typically acrobatic saves during the match on Tyneside.

Which is why you should not believe in omens.

It all seemed to be going according to a rigid tactical plan (and a plan that was more optimistic and slightly more adventurous than usual).

Then all of that good feeling was abolished after 93 minutes.

Julian Speroni could not have done anything about the goal, but it felt like a kick in the teeth, a poke to the eye, a punch in the stomach and a knee to the unmentionables all at once.

It had to be Papiss Cissé - the man who looked like he'd miss a thousand chances rather than scoring during the game.

He somehow surprised everyone - including himself - in grabbing that injury time winner.

Though the real game-changer was Hatem Ben Arfa. The commentators talked him up and when he appeared it was exactly as they had warned.

He was well shepherded by Joel Ward but proved increasingly tricky, skilful and hard to handle.

The Palace substitutions, on the other hand, seemed far more counterproductive.

I'm sure there was logic there, but Yannick Bolasie didn't look burnt out or knackered enough to need replacing - and he'd been our main threat, striking the bar with an audacious curler and our best effort of the game.

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Plus he wasn't neglecting his defensive duties either - a side of his game that has come on leaps and bounds this year.

The Barry Bannan for Bolasie swap meant Joe Ledley covered the left wing, to double up on Ben Arfa and give Ward added protection.

Only Ledley looked absolutely exhausted. Bolasie left the field with his usual grin and surely could have continued his job for the full 90.

Taking Jason Puncheon off for Adlène Guédioura meant Palace packed the midfield, but with absolutely no counter attacking width.

Therefore Glenn Murray's position was essentially impossible and the away side sat back even more, inviting pressure.

All game long the Eagles had looked relatively dangerous and surprisingly fluid on the counter attack. Far more dangerous than against Sunderland anyway.

Cameron Jerome was guilty of selfishly shooting to waste one of our most clear cut breaks, with KG and Bolasie storming through on the overlap either side of him. He went for glory instead and gained none.

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Tony Pulis' second half substitutes were obviously intended to ensure a draw but surrendering our forward players was a misplaced sacrifice and gave nobody any breathing space.

Two away clean sheets in a row in the Premier League would have been a remarkable achievement, no matter the style used to get them.

Another point on the board, pushing us to four points above Sunderland (with their two games in hand), would have been huge.

Especially when you consider we face Arsène Wenger's 1,000th game party-poopers Chelsea in the next match...

Instead we return south with nothing to show for it.

Next Saturday is going to be ugly, it's going to be desperate and it's going to be bordering on impossible.

But we certainly can't always keep assuming the worst against the big boys and looking ahead to the next winnable game. Very soon we'll run out of games to look ahead too.

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