James Daly’s red and blue return on Monday afternoon could hardly have gone any better – the striker netted twice in an emphatic 3-0 win over Sheffield United in his first game for Crystal Palace in months.
The 19-year-old was sent out on loan to seventh tier Isthmian League Premier Division side Kingstonian in the summer having struck nine times in 13 league games last season, thus firing the Eagles’ development side to a league title. He has picked up where he left off in his first start under Richard Shaw since.
Despite having only just returned from injury, the hitman looked likely to score all game and delivered – although perhaps fortunately – when Kian Flanagan’s effort rebounded off the cross-bar and bounced off Daly’s boot, beating the helpless Blades custodian. There was no such luck about his second, though.
The number 9’s excellent positional awareness was showcased as he darted into the 18-yard box and deftly fired home, although he was denied the chance for a hat-trick as he was substituted at half-time. Shaw obviously didn’t want to risk his star striker too much on his first match back from injury.
Considering the mood the Palace Scholar of the Year was in, you wouldn’t have bet against him netting his third in the second half and United can count themselves lucky that he was withdrawn – the scoreline was flattering, anyway.
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Comfortable on the wing also, the versatile left-footer could soon follow in Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s footsteps by making the step up to the first team if his form at youth level is anything to go by. There is no doubt that Roy Hodgson will need to find another prolific striker once Michy Batshuayi returns to Chelsea – perhaps he has just that right under his nose?
Christian Benteke is a shadow of the player he was when he first came to Selhurst Park and Alexander Sorloth has a lot of work to do to reach Premier League level, while the academy has proved helpful in recent seasons. Will we see Daly line up alongside Wilfried Zaha and co in the near future?