By Andrew McSteen
After their third 1-0 Premier League win in a row, against Watford on Saturday, Crystal Palace moved 12 points clear of safety to all-but-mathematically secure an eighth-straight season in the top-flight.
That series of blanks for the opposition attack pushed the Eagles clean sheet column up to nine for the season with just 32 goals conceded in 29 games, putting them sixth in the Premier League, behind Liverpool (21 goals/29 games), Sheffield United (25/28), Leicester City (28/29), Manchester United (30/29) and Manchester City (31/28).
“I’m fully aware of that stat,” answered Crystal Palace defender Gary Cahill with a smile when the South London Press told him the position of his defence in the league table after the Watford victory. “It’s a team game but I’m aware of that stat; you know, you stay humble and keep it to yourself, but at the same time, as defenders, we are all aware of that.
“If you’re not, I think you should be, because it’s what you drive towards; to see how low that goals against tally can be throughout the whole of the season, but it’s a collective effort – if the shape’s not right, which we found out a few times this season, we become unstuck.”
Cahill has played alongside four fellow central defenders this season in the Premier League with Martin Kelly, Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins and Scott Dann partnering the former England man in his 20 games so far.
And despite gaining six more clean sheets this season, putting him two short of a Premier League century in his 369 games, the 34-year-old puts down the success to a collective team effort.
“Everyone has to chip in, and that’s what’s been happening,” said the former Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea and Aston Villa player. “We’ve been getting crucial goals and Jordan (Ayew) has been unbelievable, I thought he was fantastic (against Watford), and in the second half he was incredible, plus Christian (Benteke) was up there again causing havoc.
“It’s been good the last few weeks (for us),” he added. “It shows a bit of character to come off of the back of three bad results we had and turn it around and do that (win three in a row), but I’ve said that before about the squad and I’m not surprised.”