BY ANDREW McSTEEN
Joel Ward was perfectly happy with an “ugly” win for Crystal Palace at Brighton – and reckons the derby is rarely one that is pretty on the eye.
The right-back joined the Eagles in 2012 and knows all about the fierce rivalry between the two clubs.
Jordan Ayew’s 70th-minute goal made it back-to-back Premier League victories for the South Londoners – they are on 36 points and within touching distance of Premier League safety.
“The games I’ve played here have always been a bit of a scrap,” Ward told the South London Press. “I don’t think there’s been many pretty games between us.
“It’s an odd one to have on TV because it ends up being a bit of a scrappy game, but we’ll take those points.
“The gaffer has been in the game long enough to know what these games mean. He speaks to us and makes sure we’re ready and got our minds on the game, regardless of what’s going on outside and all the hype – he wants to keep us focused on the job in hand and thankfully, we’ve done that.
“Sometimes you have to win like that [ugly]. That’s part and parcel of football – you have to dig in when your back is against the wall and when things aren’t going your way.
“It’s a big one for the fans as well – the importance of the game – so it’s nice to come away with three points.
“Any derby game is a big game, and any players who have been at clubs for long periods of time know what it means to the fans more than anything.
“Obviously you want to push up as high as you can – our job is to put as many points on the board as we can. These two back-to-back wins, and, as a collective, two clean sheets in a row, have put us in a fantastic position.”
Roy Hodgson has guided the Eagles to their best ever points tally after 28 matches in the Premier League.
Contract talks are set to continue over the former England boss extending his stay beyond the end of this campaign.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Ward when asked if he and the squad wanted Hodgson to stay. “You can see that from the results and the way in which we’ve played this season.
“It’s our highest points tally we’ve had in the Premier League at this point, so I am delighted for that and we will continue to build, move forward and to set our sights high.”
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