Ian Hart: FA Cup no-show a disappointment

Albion players celebrate Glenn Murray's winner in the FA Cup triumph over arch-rivals Crystal Palace on Monday. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion players celebrate Glenn Murray's winner in the FA Cup triumph over arch-rivals Crystal Palace on Monday. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

There was no sign of Sidney Greenstreet walking up to the guillotine, but in many ways Monday night was ‘the best of times and the worst of times’.

Regardless of the alleged ‘weakened line-ups’ ANY victory against Crystal Palace in ANY competition is worth celebrating, let alone in the greatest cup competition in the world.

On the downside, the crowd figure couldn’t even reach 50 per cent of the Amex capacity and listening to a national phone-in on the way set us up for a fair bit of ridicule from the Palace support and beyond.

On the face of it, a Monday night game with live TV coverage, the second week into a new year, with Christmas spending, or overspending, still prevalent in many people’s thoughts, selection issues from both teams, and Chelsea at the Amex Saturday week, were always going to be a factor. But a sub-15,000 crowd was extremely disappointing.

For those who did turn up, after a slow start Monday’s FA Cup tie between Albion and Palace ignited into a classic cup tie.

To their credit, Palace’s equaliser was worthy of any stadium in Europe and beyond but after having a number of chances to clinch a place in the next round, Glenn Murray’s 87th-minute winner got the ground rocking. On the subject of Murray, his standing at both clubs gives him unique status. I never thought I’d see the day when an Albion substitute received effectively a standing ovation from the Palace support, followed by a song. Given the fierce rivalry which unfortunately sometimes borders on hatred, that’s some accolade.

And given the events of the league fixture back in November, I think huge credit needs to go to the club and the police for the way things planned out on Monday, with the whole evening passing off without any serious incidents.

It’s back to league business this weekend with a trip to the Hawthorns for the clash of the Albions.

With the Baggies’ dire league form, all things point to another potential three point away haul for our Albion. Whether or not the line-up will include any new signings remains to be seen, this transfer window is vital and anyone who thinks the Seagulls aren’t working night and day on their various targets is clearly deluded.

Prediction time at the Hawthorns, 3-1 to our Albion.

Despite the disappointing Test result, Mason Crane’s full England debut leaves room for optimism moving forward.

With not one, but two songs now in the Barmy Army repertoire, Prince’s Purple Rain and one from Carly Simon, Mason’s performance should be analysed by more than just looking at his final bowling figures.

Every cricketer at the highest level has to start from somewhere. Shane Warne recounted that his Test debut figures saw a similar return, and he didn’t turn out too bad did he?

The encouraging thing is that despite this being yet another disastrous tour Down Under for England, almost all of the experts, on both sides, have spoken about Mason in a positive light, with, to reiterate, optimism moving forward.

At the time of going to press, the England Test squad for a series in New Zealand is due to be announced. He clearly deserves another chance and perhaps in a less high pressure situation he will show more what he can do at the highest level.