The January arrivals of Mamadou Sakho and Jeffrey Schlupp have been the final piece of the jigsaw as Crystal Palace’s defence has tightened up at a crucial stage of the season.
That is the verdict of Eagles goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Palace have kept three successive clean sheets – a run that started when Sakho, signed on loan from Liverpool in January, was declared fit enough to play. Schlupp was a big-money addition in the winter window from Leicester City.
“We’re not making as many mistakes as we were and we’re creating a lot more,” said the Wales number one after Palace posted their third win and third clean sheet in a row with Saturday’s 1-0 win at home to Watford. “The back four have been fantastic, they’ve been so solid and good as a unit.
“We’re all working so well now and the last player, Sakho, has come in and has gelled. We’re one great unit now.
“We were unlucky with Patrick [van Aanholt], it was a nasty injury at West Brom but Jeffrey has come in and he’s done really well and didn’t even look like he hadn’t played many games. He’s really happy with himself.”
Hennessey was expected to play for Wales against Ireland in Dublin tonight in a World Cup qualifier the Palace goalkeeper labelled a “must-win” game and said he shares his manager’s concern that his fellow international players return for training after the break in Premier League fixtures without having picked up any knocks.
“It’s always a pleasure to be involved for your country and go and represent them,” said the Eagles shot-stopper. Everybody that gets called away for their country, I’m sure we’re all praying that they come back fit and well so we can focus on the Chelsea game.
“Hopefully we can cause an upset. We’re playing really well at the moment, we’re on a roll and all full of spirit. People will be watching our games and thinking ‘they’ve got a chance’, which we have, and we’re proving people wrong. Hopefully, if we can continue what we’re doing, we’ll creep up the board and be safe.”
Hennessey had to be at his best to get his hand on a fierce effort from Watford sub Abdoulaye Doucoure 13 minutes from time to protect his side’s lead at Selhurst Park.
“I’ve seen it late, it went through bodies and I’m thinking ‘oh, just don’t take a deflection here’,”explained the Eagles shot-stopper. “I’ve stayed up for as long as possible and managed to get my hand on it.”