Crystal Palace snatched their first victory of the season on Tuesday evening as they overcame League Two Blackpool in the English Football League Cup.
A Clark Robertson own goal, followed by Connor Wickham’s first competitive goal at Selhurst Park, gave the Eagles a comfortable 2-0 win.
Palace boss Alan Pardew fielded possibly the strongest team seen this season, with James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye returning to partner each other in midfield, whilst Steve Mandanda, James Tomkins and Christian Benteke made their full debuts.
Benteke, Palace’s new club-record signing, started the game well and his movement at the top of the pitch was superb and far from reminiscent of any recent striker to take to the Selhurst Park pitch.
The £27 million former Liverpool striker’s first chance came when he powered a header straight at Tangerines goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.
The Eagles dominated the early offerings of the game and seemed intent on passing their way through their opponents – almost Barcelona-esque. This, ironically, almost paid off when the ball reached Benteke, who laid it off to Puncheon but the midfielder failed to hit the target.
Martin Kelly – starting at right-back instead of the rested Joel Ward – enjoyed lots of room down the right-hand side of the pitch and delivered several good crosses. Benteke almost met another delivery from his fellow exiled Liverpool man but he was adjudged to have fouled defender Tom Aldred in the process.
Following the spell of Palace pressure, the fourth-tier side began to display a sign of confidence. Striker Armand Gnanduillet’s pace and power was causing Dann and Tomkins a few minor problems and he had his first effort when he let fly from range, but Mandanda saved with ease.
Eagles' first goal of the season not scored by their own player
Coincidentally, the opening goal came just as Blackpool had found their rhythm. Townsend’s cross was headed only as far as Dann who volleyed across goal, only for the ball to rather unfortunately crash off the head of Robertson and into the corner of the net.
It was certainly no more than Pardew’s side deserved, but the visitors almost equalised straight away as Jim McAlister fired towards goal from close range only for McArthur to stab the ball away from on the goal line.
That scare was a warning sign to the Eagles but they limited their opponents to very minimal chances.
Sub Wickham doubles lead
Pardew had seen enough of Benteke in the first-half to be assured that he could fit in with his new team-mates and was withdrawn at the break and replaced by Wickham.
Not even a minute had passed when Wickham doubled his side’s lead. Puncheon dispossessed Brad Potts on the left and squared to the former Sunderland man, who rifled into the net from close-range.
Palace appeared unwilling to kill off their inferior opponents and the lack of ruthlessness led to some anxiety in the crowd as many feared a Blackpool goal would completely change the course of the game.
Townsend came the closest to making the game safe when his right-footed effort clipped the top of the crossbar, but the Eagles coast into round three.
Palace will find out their opponents in the third round draw on Wednesday evening.