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Joel Ward ready for ‘heat’ of Millwall’s Den – as Crystal Palace defender eyes going deep in FA Cup

Joel Ward would love Crystal Palace to go on another FA Cup run – but is expecting facing Millwall at The Den to be a tough assignment.

The two South London clubs meet in the third round of the competition on Saturday.

Ward played in every minute of Palace’s FA Cup run during the 2015-16 season under Alan Pardew. They beat Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham, Reading and Watford en route to  reaching the final – the second in the club’s history.

The Eagles eventually fell to defeat at the hands of Manchester United in extra time, despite taking the lead through Jason Puncheon with 12 minutes of normal time remaining.

When asked if he believed he had unfinished business in the competition, Ward said: “It would be nice to say we have some unfinished business in the FA Cup, yeah. We would have loved to have won it, and it will always stay with us because we came so close, but so far as well, I guess.

“If I could flick a switch and change the end result, it would be amazing, but that is not reality.

“The journey was brilliant – it was full of excitement. In the games we played, we had to overcome obstacles throughout, which was important.

“It was something that will live on in the memory of the players involved and people at the club for many years to come.

“It is one of those where we would love to go on another run, and for the club and fans, it could be a journey we could all go on together again.”

The Eagles take on Gary Rowett’s side at 12:45pm on Saturday.

The last time the two sides met in a competitive outing was in April 2013 when they drew 0-0 in the Championship at The Den, with Palace going on to get promoted via the play-offs that season.

Ward added: “I believe it was a thrilling draw, wasn’t it? There’s not a huge amount of memory from that one other than it was a draw.

“We know it’s a tough place to go, and they’re going to be right up for it. We have got to make sure that we match and exceed what they’re going to be producing.”

Speaking on the welcome he and the Crystal Palace squad expect on Saturday lunchtime, Ward said: “Ah, we’ll get a brilliant reception, no doubt.

“We know it will be a battle. Being a club not too far away from where we are, there will be moments, and it will have its heat, but we have to make sure we impose ourselves on the game and continue professionally in that manner.

“If we do so, there is no reason why we can’t impose ourselves and come away being through to the next round. We know it will be a difficult place to go, and the atmosphere will be a challenge.

“They’re obviously going to be backing their team and pushing for them to go through to the next round. Anyone in the cup wants to progress and move on because it’s a journey and an exciting thing for the club and the fans to all be a part of.

“For us, we’re playing away, and we want to make sure that we nullify them, keep them quiet, and not give them a reason to get their tails up. If we do that, we’re doing the right thing.”

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

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