By Andy McSteen
Crystal Palace interim manager Keith Millen conceded the recent turmoil surrounding the club had affected the players this week.
The Eagles were beaten 3-1 at home by West Ham this afternoon, leaving them pointless from two games played following Tony Pulis’ bombshell departure last Thursday evening.
Trailing 2-0 at the break to first half goals from Mauro Zarate and Stewart Doowning, Maroune Chamakh’s early second half effort gave the hosts a timely lifeline.
However, Carlton Cole restored the Hammers’ two-goal cushion just after the hour to deepen the sense of gloom at the end of what has been a forgettable week on and off the pitch in SE25.
Millen said: “We spoke about being at home today - our first home game and the atmosphere, the expectation around it but we were flat.
“The first half was disappointing, as we never really got any tempo to our pressing and we allowed West Ham to control a lot of the game.
“Before they scored (their first) we could have taken the lead.
“But in general we were lacklustre.”
Following Pulis leaving the club and the revelations surrounding the then Palace director of football Iain Moody and Eagles manager in waiting Malky Mackay, Millen hinted the off the field dramas impacted on his charges although he still took responsibility for the shortcomings on the pitch.
He said: “I am in charge and I won’t hide behind excuses, but it’s been a tough week for the players.
“I don’t know if it has affected them.
“I’ve tried to play it down, and in training they’ve been fine, but when you come to matchday you’re never quite sure how they’re going to respond.
“Whether it had a bearing or not I don’t know.
“We lost Joe Ledley in the warm-up which was a blow to us.
“It's going against us at the moment a little bit but I don’t want to make excuses - that wasn’t good enough from us in the first half.”
Despite a poor first half, where the Eagles went in 2-0 down thanks to a strike from Zarate and a 37th minute finish from Downing, the home side came out of the dressing room at full steam and scored through a clinically-struck shot from Chamakh.
At 2-1 this gave Palace fans hope, but that quickly faded when Carlton Cole smashed home from close range to seal the three points for the visitors.
“We got into the players at half-time,” said Millen.
“I was pleased with their response in the second half and we got the goal to make it 2-1 and then it was game on.
“I thought we would get something out of it.
“The atmosphere changed, the fans got behind us and we were on the front foot, but we conceded another goal from a set piece and that really killed the game.”
Palace face Walsall away on Tuesday in the League Cup before a long journey to Newcastle for their next Premier League match on Saturday, where Palace fans will be hoping a new manager is in place.
Millen said: “It’s a tough week - we’ve got the cup game on Tuesday and we’ve got to go to Newcastle on Saturday so we’ve got a bit of travelling.
“I expect to be in charge on Tuesday. I’ve become accustomed to dealing with these situations, we will just have to deal with it day-to-day.
“We don’t have to have a new manager in place for next week - if the chairman doesn’t find the right person he won’t rush into it.
“I’ve said all along that I know from (the chairman’s) personal conversations what he is looking for.
“If he feels like I am the right one to do it then I will talk with him again.”
Millen added: “I would like to think today’s performance and result doesn't have any real effect on my chances of becoming manager - one result doesn’t determine if you’re the right manager or not.
“The transfer window closes next Monday and everyone knows that we need to strengthen the squad.
“We’ve got a cup game on Tuesday to deal with and we’ll prepare the lads.
“They'll be disappointed from today, but they’ll bounce back.
“I’ll pick a team with some changes in it and hope to get a result on Tuesday - it’s never a dull moment.”
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