Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has confirmed goalkeeper Sam Johnstone will keep his place in the Eagles’ starting XI for their visit to Wolves on Tuesday.
The Manchester United academy graduate had not played in the Premier League in nearly two seasons before Hodgson returned to the club in March, after being relegated with West Brom in 2021.
An injury to first-choice keeper Vicente Guaita in the manager’s first game meant Johnstone was brought in for Palace’s 5-1 win against Leeds at Elland Road that helped haul them clear of the relegation zone, and has started the last three games despite the Spaniard’s return to fitness.
Hodgson’s team have gone four games unbeaten since the 75-year-old replaced Patrick Vieira, who was sacked with Palace on a winless run of 12 matches, and the manager has made just two changes to his selection since being reappointed, both enforced by injury.
The Eagles can open up a 12-point gap on the bottom three and move above Chelsea in the table with victory at Molineux.
With the stakes high, Hodgson said he was sticking with Johnstone as his number one after the 30-year-old kept consecutive clean sheets against Southampton and Everton.
Hodgson said: “Happy is too strong a word to use, satisfied is a better word. We would have liked to have won it (0-0 draw with Everton). I thought there was a stage in the game where it looked like we possibly were going to win it.
“The way the game panned out, one point was also very valuable and good to have, and it did test another aspect of our game that perhaps we haven’t tested quite so much in the previous three games, where a lot of balls were hit long towards the centre-backs, there was a lot of aerial duels, a lot of knock-downs in midfield.
“We had to deal with that. I was pleased a team that hadn’t had to face that type of barrage of balls hit towards them dealt with it as well as they did.
“It’s unlucky for Vicente because he was playing well.
“There’s no criticism of him. I came in and he played against Leicester and did extremely well. He played a large part of the second half nursing the injury that eventually kept him out of the team for a couple of weeks. He’s been extremely unlucky.
“If you’re a goalkeeper, which is such a specific position, and you do happen to lose your place, and the guy who’s been waiting desperately for his chance to show what he can do gets a chance, and then does well, it pushes you into the position he’s been in.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have two quality goalkeepers of that experience. Vicente, we all know what he’s done at this club over the last five years. Sam Johnstone came here from West Brom on the back of being in the England squad. He didn’t come here to play second fiddle, he came to compete.
“He’s had the opportunity, he’s grabbed the shirt and does well. Now it’ll be up to Vicente when he gets his chance to make sure he doesn’t let Sam back in.
“Sam will start tomorrow.”
Aside from the swap in goal, Hodgson’s only change to his starting XI in four games has been to bring in Jordan Ayew in place of the injured Wilfried Zaha.
The manager confirmed that Zaha would not be fit to feature until Saturday’s game against West Ham at the earliest, but was hopeful he would return to first-team training this week.
He also hinted he would stick with the same starting side at Molineux that has virtually killed off any lingering fear that the club might go down with 10 points from four games.
“Rotation can be a dangerous thing to do,” said Hodgson. “I don’t know that we’re in a situation where we’re looking to rotate players per se.
“I am aware that we have players behind the 11 that have been doing such a good job for us in the last four games who are well and truly knocking on the door, so we’ll consider that when we contemplate what line-up we’ll have tomorrow evening.”