BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace defender James Tomkins has quipped that he will today be feeling the effects of starting his first Premier League match in 10 months in the stalemate against Leicester City.
The 31-year-old featured for the whole of the Eagles’ 1-1 draw against the Foxes. Wilfried Zaha’s goal slightly prior to the hour mark was cancelled out by Harvey Barnes’ late strike.
Tomkins conceded an early penalty but Kelechi Iheanacho’s spot-kick was saved by Vicente Guaita.
“I’ll let you know in the morning (today),” Tomkins joked when asked how he felt after starting for the first time since a 3-1 defeat against Everton on February 8.
“There were a few dicey moments early on when you’re struggling to get into the pace of the game and they’re running at you. That was difficult, but it was also to be expected. I hung on in there and, in the end, it was just nice to be back playing my part.
“The Premier League is still so intense, whether there’s a crowd there or not, and it takes time to get back up to the speed of the game. It just took me that long to get into the game. Hopefully I got better as it went on, and I was sliding into some challenges before the end feeling a bit more my old self.
“It was great to be back. There was that challenge [on Harvey Barnes], right in front of the dug-outs. As the game went on I certainly felt I got sharper and more up to the pace of it all, getting stuck in, so I’m just glad to get the 90 minutes under my belt. Tomorrow is obviously going to be painful, but I’m just so happy to get through it.
“I’ve been eager for weeks now, since I’ve been fit, to get back into the team and contributing. I came on against Liverpool in a hard situation, but that was good to get used to the speed of the game again.
“Mentally, you have to keep switched on, keep ready. Be prepared. Physically, try and get stronger every day. I’m blessed with a lovely family and they keep me going and strong, too. But it’s just nice to be back now.”
Tomkins felt that Palace were not at their best in the first half. Leicester had several chances to go ahead. Iheanacho missed a header from close range and Barnes fired over after a looping cross had bounced off the crossbar.
A half-time dressing down by Ray Lewington led to an improved second-half display and Zaha put Palace ahead. However, Barnes equalised and had a couple of opportunities to win the game – especially after Jamie Vardy came off the bench.
“First half we weren’t at it, we were a bit nervous on the back of some heavy defeats, we were down about that and it showed. At half-time Ray Lewington gave us a talking to and we proved we are a better team than we showed. It’s a great response in that second half.
“They are very sharp players, when Jamie Vardy came on and I was playing my first game in 10 months it livened it up. It was a special moment from them for the goal, that’s what good players do.”
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