Crystal Palace 2, Watford 1: Palace party like it's 1990 as Pardew compares his modern day team to vintage Eagles side

Ross McLean
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Watford v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final
Wickham netted Palace's second-half winner (Source: Getty)

Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew drew comparisons between his modern day side and the class of 1990 after they set up a repeat of that year’s FA Cup final against Manchester United with victory over Watford.

Former England Under-21 striker Connor Wickham netted Palace’s second-half winner shortly after skipper Troy Deeney had hauled Watford level following Yannick Bolasie’s early opener for the Eagles.

Pardew also believes the backdrop to this season’s final on 21 May will have parallels with 1990. United manager Louis van Gaal, for instance, like Sir Alex Ferguson 26 years ago, is facing fierce speculation regarding his job security.

While United prevailed in that final courtesy of a Lee Martin strike in the replay after the initial clash ended 3-3, Pardew has backed his current crop of players to make history and land the club’s first major trophy.

“I hope the destiny isn’t the same result,” said Pardew, a member of Palace’s midfield during those encounters.

“There are almost identical scenarios for the managers but this a different team and there’s a different spirit.

“We had a similar side in 1990 in terms of the characteristics of the team; hard-working, diligent, good defenders and a little bit of pace on the attack.

“I was very pleased for the club today. I think United will have a difficult game in the final. They will be favourites for sure – they are the biggest club in the world. It will be a tough task for us. The game-plan will be different but we can still deliver it because we have got players that can hurt any team.”

Palace had won seven of their previous 11 tussles with the Hornets and boosted their chances of progressing from their first FA Cup semi-final since 1995 by taking a sixth-minute lead.

An inswinging corner from Yohan Cabaye was flicked on at the near post by Damien Delaney and nodded in at the far by a towering Bolasie, despite the attentions of Deeney.

Watford were unable to create a clear-cut opening in the first half, although retreating Palace full-back Joel Ward was dangerously close to prodding into his own net from an Allan Nyom centre.

Hornets goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon thwarted Bolasie shortly after the restart as Palace threatened a second, only for Watford to engineer their way back into the game on 55 minutes.

Similar to Palace’s opener, Jose Manuel Jurado fired in a corner which Deeney met ahead of centre-half Scott Dann before planting a firm header past Palace stopper Wayne Hennessey.

Parity lasted just six minutes as Palace regained the initiative in clinical fashion when Wickham soared above Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake to head a Pape Souare cross down and beyond Pantilimon.

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores defended his tenure after the build-up to the semi-final was overshadowed by talk of his future. “We need to be realists,” said Flores. “Nobody at Watford at the start of the season was expecting to be in the semi-final.”