Post-match news: Pardew sweating on fitness of key players

The Palace boss made several changes to the side against Southampton with injuries in mind, while the Eagles' cup final opponents have their final game abandoned

Post-match news: Pardew sweating on fitness of key players
Connor Wickham is a doubt for the cup final (Photo: Getty images)

Alan Pardew is worried about the availability of Crystal Palace pair Yohan Cabaye and Connor Wickham ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final.

The Eagles face Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in their first major cup final in 26 years – coincidentally also an FA Cup final against the Red Devils.

Cabaye and Wickham both doubts for cup final

Wickham and Cabaye missed Saturday’s 4-1 defeat against Southampton with injuries, and Pardew admitted Palace were worrying about the pair when speaking in his post-match press conference.

Both players have been influential this season following their summer arrivals and played a key part in last month’s semi-final win over Watford.

Wickham – scorer of the winner against the Hornets – has had a season blighted by injury, but has still played a key part on the pitch and is undoubtedly Pardew’s first-choice striker when available. Similarly, Cabaye has been a regular feature in midfield since his club-record-breaking move from Paris Saint Germain in July and would be a big miss. 

Pardew also insisted that Wilfried Zaha was “just being rested” after failing to make the 18-man matchday squad at Southampton. Zaha also missed last weekend’s 2-1 win over Stoke City through injury and appeared to be a doubt for the FA Cup final against his former club, but Pardew now seems adamant that the winger will recover in time to play a part at Wembley.

Should Wickham not play in the final, his replacement would most likely be Emmanuel Adebayor, who Pardew claimed “did well today” at St Mary’s stadium. Adebayor has failed to make an impact at Selhurst Park since his January arrival – scoring just once – and has had to settle for a place on the bench. Dwight Gayle is another candidate to lead the line, while Fraizer Campbell stands an outside chance against the club where he started his career.

Pardew rings the changes in final game as Palace plan ahead to cup final

Pardew made five changes from the team that beat Stoke; Wayne HenesseyYannick Bolasie and Scott Dann also dropped out of the side. Julian Speroni equalled John Jackson’s record of appearing 388 times in the Palace goal, and Pardew urged the Argentinian stopper to beat the record next season, while also insisting that “no blame can be laid on Speroni” for the mix-up in defence that led to Sadio Mane’s goal.

Speroni flapped at a cross and his weak punch fell straight into the path of the Southampton forward, who lofted the ball back over the goalkeeper and into an unguarded goal to open the scoring. 

Graziano Pelle, Ryan Bertrand and Steven Davis secured the result for the Saints, despite Jason Puncheon scoring a sublime goal against his former club.

One of the only highlights in an afternoon to forget for Palace was that academy graduates Jake Gray and Sullay Kaikai both earned a place on the substitutes bench, with the latter replacing Jordon Mutch at half-time and having a big influence in the second-half. Kaikai's corner led to Puncheon's goal and he had his own effort well saved by Southampton goalkeeper, Fraser Forster

The pair have spent successful loan spells at Hartlepool United and Shrewsbury Town respectively and will look to push themselves further into Pardew’s first-team plans in pre-season, Kakai especially as his goals hepled fire the Shropshire side to relegation safety.

Kaikai (pictured) and Gray have enjoyed valuable first team experience in the Football League (Photo: Shrewsbury Town FC)
Kaikai (pictured) and Gray have enjoyed valuable first team experience in the Football League (Photo: Shrewsbury Town FC)

Cup final opponents have match abandoned in shocking circumstances

Palace's FA Cup final opponents, Manchester United, had their final game of the season abandoned 15 minutes before kick-off due to a bomb threat. Louis van Gaal's side were about to head back to the dressing room having completed their pre-match warm-up when Old Trafford was evacuated after a suspicious package was found in the North-West quadrant of the stadium. 

VAVEL UK's Manchester United editor, Harry Robinson, correctly praised the actions of Old Trafford's staff in dealing with the events in the build-up to the game with Bournemouth

The re-arranged fixture is expected to be played on Tuesday evening and the Red Devils having to play a game in midweek could swing the final in Palace's favour. However, van Gaal will likely field a much weaker team than the one he originally planned to play against Eddie Howe's side, especially now that fourth place is almost certainly out of their reach due to Manchester City's draw at Swansea City