Roy Hodgson is satisfied with the fight still being displayed by his Crystal Palace team despite the lack of an obvious target to play for in the final weeks of the season, though knows that poor results will lead to accusations of his players losing interest.
Palace gave a spirited display away at Champions League hopefuls Leicester on Monday night, holding a 1-0 advantage at the interval after Wilfried Zaha’s early goal.
However, the hosts were back on level terms within five minutes of the second half thanks to Timothy Castagne and took a huge step towards securing a top-four Premier League finish courtesy of in-form striker Kelechi Iheanacho’s excellent late effort.
Back-to-back defeats and a run of just one win from their last seven matches has left Palace drifting 13th in the table, 11 points clear of any relegation danger but eight away from the top half with the campaign rather petering out with top-flight safety all but secured ahead of a likely summer of change at Selhurst Park.
Asked if the performance against Leicester showed Palace’s ongoing appetite amid suggestions that players could be accused of being “on the beach” with relegation not a concern, Hodgson, whose own contract expires in the summer, told Sky Sports: “I’ve never feared that, I’ve got to say. I don’t think this is the sort of team that does that, I’d be very disappointed if that was to happen or if the players gave people reason to doubt that.
“But unfortunately results will tend to make people say that. People don’t always analyse performances, they analyse results.
“So if we continue to lose a few games that is what people will say, that we got safe early and weren’t interested to win the last games.
“But that’s something certainly that I and the rest of the coaching staff and the players would really contest, but unfortunately, as we all know, football matches come from the result backwards and analysis of performance comes at the final whistle when people know the score.”
Southampton’s participation in the FA Cup semi-finals resulted in their recent meeting with Palace being postponed, meaning the Eagles had a 16-day gap between their defeats by Chelsea and Leicester.
Asked if such a break had benfitted his side after an improved performance against a high-flying opponent, Hodgson said: “That energy and that way of playing, I think that’s what we expect from the team really.
“I think I’m entitled to look forward to performances like that between now and the rest of the season, irrespective of whether we are playing a team at the top of the table or a team lower down.
“But the boys are very disappointed, I think they thought at half-time that they had enough in the tank and enough quality in the team to get a win here today.”