Jason Puncheon shines despite Crystal Palace's loss to Southampton

A weird and at times frustrating season was wrapped up with a weird and frustrating game for Crystal Palace in their 4-1 defeat at Southampton. The Eagles' lineup was hugely influenced by their looming FA Cup final appearance against Manchester United next week, with six first teamers missing, either rested or with "slight knocks".

And it probably handed the initiative to a strong Saints team who were still playing for a Europa League spot and have been the third best team in the Premier League in 2016, behind Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. But despite that, Alan Pardew's side could still have gotten something from the game while they also lost out on a few decisive calls.

Southampton's second goal was definitely a push from Graziano Pelle on Adrian Mariappa, and their third was a penalty called for a foul on Sadio Mane which was clearly outside the box. In any other week, the Palace fans would be up in arms about those decisions but everything at the moment is a distraction from the FA Cup final.

And with the Eagles already mathematical safe from relegation, there was little to play for except a starting place in that massive Wembley clash for a few players. Jason Puncheon was superb, scored a well-taken goal and will almost certainly be involved next Saturday. Dwight Gayle looked bright too but the biggest cheer of the day was for popular teenage star Sullay Kaikai who came on at half-time for his Premier League debut and looked good.

He obviously won't be involved in the FA Cup final but everyone at Palace will be fairly content going into what is the club's biggest game in the past two decades. And if it all goes well, it will turn a weird and frustrating season into a brilliant one.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Julian Speroni, 6 -- Given a rare start and matched legendary Palace keeper John Jackson on 388 appearances for the club but handed Saints the first goal with a horrible flappy punch at a cross.

DF Joel Ward, 5 -- Booed by the home fans for his affiliation with their rivals Portsmouth but it didn't spur him on much. Harshly booked for a high foot on Dusan Tadic and then taken off to avoid a second yellow.

DF Adrian Mariappa, 6 -- Competent enough given how little he has been on the pitch this season.

DF Damien Delaney, 6 -- A mixed performance from the Irish centre-back who was calm and composed at times but out of sorts at others, including for Southampton's fourth goal.

DF Pape Souare, 7 -- Probably Palace's best defender who saved a certain goal with a superb clearance early on.

MF James McArthur, 7 -- Only his third start since returning from a length injury but looked like he'd never been away and was his usual hardworking self in the middle of the park.

MF Mile Jedinak, 7 -- A routine performance from the big Aussie; some great blocks and interceptions but a smattering of bad passes.

MF Jordon Mutch, 7 -- Taken off at half-time for teenage debutant Sullay Kaikai but was perhaps a bit unlucky to be withdrawn as he showed some nice touches out wide.

MF Jason Puncheon, 8 -- Scored a superb goal and was easily Palace's biggest creative threat against his former club. An impressive performance despite being asked to play a bit wider when he really seems to prefer playing through the middle.

FW Emmanuel Adebayor, 6 -- Probably his last game for the club, assuming Connor Wickham recovers in time to play in the FA Cup final, and didn't really do enough to leave Eagles fans with a lasting impression.

FW Dwight Gayle, 7 -- Missed a big chance right on the stroke of half-time after Southampton had opened the scoring but showed some nice movement around the box.


FW Sullay Kaikai, 7 -- Palace's latest academy star was finally handed his Premier League debut and impressed with some good deliveries. Could have capped his day with a debut goal but scuffed his shot into the ground.

DF Martin Kelly, NR -- A late replacement for Ward at right-back.

MF Chung-yong Lee, NR -- A late cameo out wide but barely touched the ball.