Alan Pardew has finally caught the FA Cup fever after a pulsating 3-2 Fourth Round victory for Crystal Palace at Southampton.
The Eagles new boss arrived at St Mary’s decidedly non-plussed about his side’s chances of winning the trophy, preferring to concentrate on the Premier League relegation stakes.
Southampton 2-3 Crystal Palace
FA Cup Fourth Round
Saturday 25 January
Winners receive £90,000
But having seen fit-again Marouane Chamakh fire a decisive double in a five-goal first half spree, Pards was greeted with the news that Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham had all fallen to leave Palace with a decent shot of reaching Wembley for the first time since he fired them there as a player in 1990.
And the ex-Saints chief said: “I’m surprised at Chelsea and Man City. Great. What a result for Bradford and I’m delighted delighted for Phil Parkinson. God knows how he’s down that!
“But it means we have a new challenge. We need to keep playing in the Premier League and the FA Cup was not high on our list.
“But being in the last 16 has given us a real buzz and we look forward to the next round.”
Pardew awarded Chamakh "nine out of 10" for his comeback performance after hamstring trouble. Arsenal loanee Yaya Sanogo scored the other Palace goal, with Southampton actually twice goling ahead through Graziano Pelle and a Scott Dann own goal in a ding-dong opening 45 minutes.
“Chamakh was best the player on the pitch,” said Pardew. “He gave a great No10 display. Think of the Saints players he was up against and that’s great credit to him. I’ve not really seen a lot of him – I know he played particularly well at the back end of last year but surely not as well as this.
“We worked on our attacking play this week and great to see that flamboyancy in our attack.
“Southampton make it difficult, they keep possession and draw you down. But in the first half we got an immediate equaliser which helped our belief and, in a game in which both teams were terrific, and just came out on the right side.
“The Cup opens the game up a little bit. It’s hard to put your finger on it but there’s a winner takes all feel to fixture and perhaps Saints were not as tight as they could have been.
“My players have been tremendous since I arrived and I couldn’t have asked for any more”
“I have to say my players have been tremendous since I arrived and I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
Disappointed Southampton boss Ronald Koeman was upset at the result – and losing striker Shane Long with a couple of suspected cracked ribs.
Substitute Long, taken to hospital, was only on the pitch for a few second half minutes before being helped off after a midfield collision with Joel Ward.
Koeman said: “It will be one or two fractured ribs for Long and it’s very painful. He could be out for up to five weeks.
“I don’t have the number of players I’d like with all our players and I shall have to think about strengthening. We can use our younger players but not all the way to the end of the season.
“The result was poor today. For the fans it was highly entertaining but we made too many mistakes. Our defensive is normally one of our strengths but there was too much space between the positions and they punished us.
“We were much better in the second half but it wasn’t enough.
“It’s a pity because the big ones are out of the FA Cup. Now the focus is on the league.”
One man going nowhere is England’s Jay Rodriguez, yet to play this term after injury but courted by Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.
But Koeman insisted: “He’s not for sale. First he comes back and plays football. That’s the question.”