For the majority of supporters, the news that their team is fielding a Club XI in a friendly against non-league opposition would go a long way towards putting them off making the trip. For a multitude of reasons, Palace fans tend not to fall into that stereotype.
Last night saw an extremely youthful squad make the short journey to take on Dulwich Hamlet in what was to be the second official friendly of our pre-season campaign. What followed was a performance in which 22 players were used, three goals were scored, none were conceded and the manager put himself on for the final few minutes.
The team that started the game included Michael Chambers, Matt Parsons, Alex Marrow, Bayan Fenwick and Kwesi Appiah and for majority of the half, the team looked very sharp and determined to play the ball around on the floor. Forgetting the penalty Dulwich missed midway through the opening period, it was clear that we were on top, with Bayan Fenwick looking particularly comfortable on the right wing throughout.
Although the likes of Appiah and Daniel looked impressive in isolation, it would be unfair not to single Fenwick out for praise. As I hadn’t seen him play since his arrival from Lewes last season, I must admit I was intrigued as to how good he could possibly be given his age, although by the time the first half ended, I was left with no doubt that he possesses a huge amount of potential. Whenever the ball made its way towards him he was desperate to get involved, constantly playing with his head up and looking to make things happen. His vocal approach demonstrated that he is confident is his ability to match anyone he comes up against whilst he showed on numerous occassions that he’s got the sort of footballing brain that allows him to adjust in a split second, an attribute that cannot simply be taught, you either have it, or you don’t.
Although the score at half-time remained 0-0, it wouldn’t have been unfair to say that we deserved at least a one goal lead, an issue that it didn’t take too long to resolve once the 2nd half started.
With a completely different side given the opportunity to impress, it was one of the lesser known substitutes, Kieran Woodley that gave us our first goal of the evening, with a beautifully struck shot from the right hand side of the box.
After that, we looked comfortable for large spells with Ryan Inniss and Alex Wynter impressing at the back, and Gus Sow and Reise Allassani showing their class whenever they were involved in play. We added a second through former Dulwich defender Quade Taylor who managed to prod the ball home from close range shortly after the first, before Allassani put the icing on the cake, calmly slotting the into the bottom left hand corner after Dougie Freedman slid a pass through a defenders legs to find him on the edge of the box.
Just like the first half, the main focus could easily be centred on a number of different players but Allassani and Sow were for me the standout performers, with both showing that they have a bright future in the game if they can continue to progress over the next few years. Allassani has the sort of style we all wished we had when we were growing up, effortlessly receiving the ball to his feet and setting off on a run without breaking a sweat. His positional awareness and movement are excellent and as demonstrated by his goal, he isn’t afraid to try his luck from a variety of positions if he feels the opportunity is there. Without wishing to hype him up to too great an extent, he looks a real talent.
Sow, in contrast to Fenwick and Allassani, is far more of a nuts and bolts squad member. Playing in the defensive midfield role, he oozes composure, doing all of the simple things with nonchalant ease whenever called upon. Granted, his impact on the game didn’t have the explosive feel of the aforementioned pair but to someone analysing the tools required to be a long-term success in the position he occupies, it’s clear that he could go on to be a real star.
Although the manager generated the biggest cheer of the night following his introduction in the final stages, it was a game that showcased the quality and depth that our academy currently harbours. It’s not exactly a secret that we put a huge amount of importance on youth but when you see the amount of talent that is currently bubbling just below the surface of the first team, it’s obvious why it’s a trend that should continue for many years to come, the kids are most definitely alright.