Jason Puncheon’s strike midway through the second-half earned Palace their first win in 15 league games and all but secures the Eagles’ Premier League safety.
Puncheon’s goal was the only moment of magic in a dull game which lacked definitive quality – almost exemplifying why both sides currently find themselves languishing in the lower regions of the division.
Alan Pardew’s side were frustrating in the final third of the pitch and should have scored at least two more goals, particularly through substitute Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie. The Eagles were lethargic and often sloppy in possession, but were lucky they came up against an abysmal Norwich side that very rarely threatened Wayne Hennessey’s goal significantly.
Palace player ratings: Delaney struggles but Souare returns to form
Wayne Hennessey – 5: Seemed clumsy and indecisive throughout the entirety of the game. Flapped at the ball on several occasions when an easy catch would have been expected and was terribly positioned when Mile Jedinak had to clear an effort off the line in the second-half.
Joel Ward – 6: The right-back did well in the opening stages to contain the overlapping runs of Norwich left-back Martin Olsson, but Steven Naismith’s tendency to drift inside from the left meant Ward had a fairly quiet game. Surged forward on a few occasions and delivered a few good crosses, but the lack of presence up front meant his service was to no avail.
Scott Dann – 6: Another very solid, no-nonsense performance from Dann meant the Eagles were able to stifle any Norwich attack. Was unlucky not to double his side’s lead with a late header that missed the post by a few inches.
Damien Delaney – 5: The Irish defender has certainly had better games. Dieumerci Mbokani outjumped Delaney consistently and won many headers. Dann was also lucky not to concede a penalty in the first-half when he clumsily bundled Matt Jarvis to the ground in the penalty area.
Pape Souare – 6: Much-improved performance from the Senegalese full-back, who struggled in the opening stages but grew in confidence in the second-half. Dribbled the ball forward in a way that has not been seen since the start of the season when he was a standout performer in the side, and also produced two excellent crosses in the first-half.
Mile Jedinak – 6: Epitomised Palace’s struggle in the first-half as he frustratingly lost possession on many occasions and often left huge gaps open in front of the back four for Norwich to exploit. Gradually improved as the game went on and ended up playing a vital role in the victory with a block on the goal line.
Yohan Cabaye – 7: The Frenchman has improved drastically in recent games following his loss of form that coincided with Palace’s shocking run. Cabaye was key to several Palace attacks and his best moment of the game was an exquisite through ball that sent Zaha through on goal.
Lack of composure almost costs Eagles
Bakary Sako – 5: Seriously struggled to have an effect on the game. His first-half was summed up by a corner that went straight out for a throw-in on the other side of the pitch, and the winger was easily dispossessed in the final third. Sako was replaced by the effective Zaha just before Puncheon’s goal.
Jason Puncheon – 6: Scored the winner and grew in confidence after the goal, but struggled to have an impact on the game beforehand. Puncheon admitted in his post-match interview that he had been disappointed with his contribution this season, so hopefully the goal will ignite a good end to the season from the Croydon-born midfielder.
Yannick Bolasie – 6: Threatened the Norwich defence with his pace and trickery, but still lacks composure in front of goal. Missed a golden chance when he slashed a half-volley over the bar and should have been more alert when a goal-mouth scramble following a corner fell his way but Jonny Howson reached the ball first.
Dwight Gayle – 6: Gayle had to deal with several long punts forward from Delaney and Dann in the first-half and, in fairness, won his fair share of headers against the much more physical Timm Klose and Ryan Bennett. However, Gayle often found himself isolated, to no fault of his own, as Puncheon and Cabaye were playing too deep. Was replaced by Connor Wickham late on.
Substitutes: Zaha shines following introduction from the bench
Wilfried Zaha – 7: Changed the game for Palace and it is no coincidence the goal came just four minutes after his introduction. The winger wanted to stretch the Norwich defence by running in behind and had the better of Olsson on many occasions, particularly when the full-back attempted to bring him down when through on goal, but Zaha was far too strong and managed to breeze past him with ease. Should have scored late on but John Ruddy produced a very good save.
Joe Ledley – N/A – Came on late in the game to help solidify the midfield, but did not have enough time to have a big impact on the game – nor was it his job to do so.
Connor Wickham – N/A: Returned from injury to replace Gayle with around ten minutes to go, but did not have enough time to make a meaningful contribution.