Crystal Palace begin a new era under Alan Pardew as they travel to in-form Conference side Dover Athletic in a potential FA Cup banana-skin.
The new Eagles manager looked on from the director’s box as they claimed a point from a drab goalless draw at Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, a result and performance which confirmed his need to add quality to their play in the final third.
If he is able to do that and improve his attacking options in the January transfer window, then there is no reason why the South London club can return to being as competitive as they were in the second half of last season. However, the immediate focus will be to successfully negotiate this tie and avoid being on the wrong end of a huge upset.
Promoted last season after 12 years outside of non-league football’s top tier, Dover made an unspectacular start to the season, but have exploded into form since the beginning of November, going on a 16-match unbeaten run.
That sequence included two wins over Football League clubs in order to reach this stage, while they are now just four points outside the Conference play-off zone. For goals, they will look to 12-goal top scorer Stefan Payne.
The visitors are without Mile Jedinak, who is on international duty, as well as the injured Marouane Chamakh. Defender Damien Delaney and midfielder James McArthur are both doubtful.
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