Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis bemoaned his team’s luck last weekend after the defeat at Wigan Athletic, but after tonight’s 1-0 win over 10-man Hull City in the Premier League, he may be thinking life has a way of balancing itself out.
There was little to choose between the sides over 90 minutes, instead the outcome hinged on a five-minute spell in the first half.
Shane Long, one half of Hull City’s new strike-force, was felled in penalty area by Danny Gabbidon, and while the Holmesdale End held its collective breath, referee East waved away vociferous appeals.
Gabbidon had been beaten for pace, and as Long cut across the big defender there appeared to be contact – you’ve seen them given.
Then, even while Steve Bruce was shouting his displeasure in the dugout, Yannick Bolasie broke on the right and, at the second attempt, crossed for Puncheon to somehow head against his own team-mate Cameron Jerome.
However, Puncheon was quick to his feet to bury his third goal of the season and rub salt very deep into Hull’s grievances.
Pulis had made five changes to the side that were knocked out of the FA Cup, with Dean Moxey coming in for the stricken Jonathan Parr.
Mile Jedinak, Bolasie and Gabbidon returned to the side at the expense of Adlene Guedioura, Barry Bannan and Paddy McCarthy, while Joel Ward replaced Stuart O’Keefe.
The sides traded chances early on with Jedinak going close twice for the Eagles, and Nikica Jelavic – the other man in Hull’s new strike partnership – missing a golden chance for the Tigers from inside the six yard box.
Then came the controversy, and Palace were suddenly five points clear of the relegation places and looking to extend their home record to three games unbeaten.
After the break, Hull enjoyed plenty of possession but rarely trouble Julian Speroni in the Palace goal.
When the ball did break their way, Jake Livermore blazed over the bar from the edge of the area.
A return to league action for Paddy McCarthy off the bench was a high point for Palace, while bookings for Marouane Chamakh, Jerome, O’Keefe and Damian Delaney were not.
Hull’s miserable night was complete when keeper Allan McGregor was sent off for kicking out at O’Keefe in the dying moments.
In a game that was low on quality, in horrendous conditions, Palace rode their luck and took the spoils – but they will have to play much better on Sunday when they go to Arsenal.
Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Moxey, Ward, Gabbidon (O’Keefe 81), Delaney, Bolasie (McCarthy 64), Jedinak, Chamakh (Wilbraham 86), Puncheon.
Subs not used: Gayle, Williams, Price, Bannan.