• 'Not to come in winning was harsh on the players'
• 'We don't want to kill the club in terms of wages'
It was actually Tim Sherwood who mentioned "character", seizing upon positives from his own charges' reaction to initial sloppiness, though it is Crystal Palace who must demonstrate it from here on in. This should have been a performance to inject conviction and momentum into their campaign but, once a commanding first half had passed with no advantage gleaned, familiar shortcomings undermined them yet again. Life may be congested in the scrap against relegation, but Palace peer up at the rest from the foot.
The next 18 days will determine this club's progress. Tony Pulis has "irons in the fire", his sporting director, Iain Moody, attempting to smooth incoming and outgoing transfers, but the window must yield reinforcements if this season is not to go the same way as Palace's four previous brushes with the revamped Premier League. The current side is capable of competing for periods, as they demonstrated by dominating an unsuspecting Tottenham Hotspur through the first period on Saturday, but they lack the bite and resilience to capitalise on opportunities. Jason Puncheon's horrible penalty miss was freakish. Equally frustrating was the erratic delivery from the flanks when Spurs were there for the taking.
The painful reality here was that the hosts needed to find their rhythm for only 20 minutes to win comfortably, Christian Eriksen and Jermain Defoe demonstrating the ruthlessness Palace so lack. Aside from their initial flurry, the visitors created four fine opportunities even in the last five minutes, only to miss them all. Pulis may have been publicly encouraged that his side competed well, as his team did at Manchester City and Chelsea, but the pressure already feels onerous to secure victories at home to Stoke and Hull in their next two league fixtures. "The most important thing is we're still in contact," said the manager. "But the way we played here first half, not to come in winning was really harsh on the players."
The hope will be that new quality will have been recruited before he takes on his former club at Selhurst Park on Saturday though, even with a relatively hefty budget to spend, strengthening is a balancing act. The three players Palace are hoping to recruit, from the Championship or the periphery of top-flight clubs, are on combined wages in excess of £150,000-a-week, effectively well above the salary structure. One is understood to be the Blackburn defender Scott Dann, who earns around £30,000-a-week. "There is money to spend, but the most important thing is trying to keep the wage bill at the level we can afford and that is sustainable," said Pulis. "That's the big problem. We don't want to kill the club in terms of wages, so we work within the finances."
A striker is a priority, though strengthening midfield to allow Joel Ward, their player of the season to date, to revert to right-back also feels a necessity. Puncheon's permanent £1.2m arrival from Southampton would free up a slot for a loanee from another Premier League side. Asked if he was close to securing anyone, Pulis added: "Loads and loads, but I'm not going to tell you."
Spurs, it appears, would only enter the market reluctantly given the depth of squad at Sherwood's disposal. This victory left the head coach with 13 points from a possible 15 since taking charge, a tally to ease concern at domestic cup elimination, even if it also provided a reminder of what they will be missing once Defoe departs for FC Toronto next month. The striker is precisely what Palace lack: a pilferer and guaranteed source of goals. His 143rd for the club was snaffled superbly as the visiting defence dithered.
"He's one of the best strikers the Premier League has ever seen," said Sherwood. "We've got to give a little more credit to Major League Soccer. I don't think it's a crap league. Jermain needs to play regular football and that's where he is going to get it and he's going to have a lifestyle change and spend his last footballing days over there. And wherever he plays, he will score." Mousa Dembélé, who had conceded the penalty to Marouane Chamakh, added that Defoe would "be missed" once he departs at the end of February. What Palace would give for six weeks with the 31-year-old leading their line.
Man of the match: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur).