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 By Jim Daly

Connor Wickham shines for Crystal Palace while Cabaye goes missing

That felt like a defeat. Fabio Borini's 90th minute strike robbed Crystal Palace of their first win of 2016 after battling back from a goal down at the Stadium of Light.

It means the wait goes on for that elusive three points, and while the Eagles were far from being back to their best in the North East on Tuesday night, they probably did enough to have won the game.

Connor Wickham scored twice -- to add to the two he scored against West Brom three days earlier -- to take him level as Palace's joint top scorer with five. Both were excellent strikes and he's finally starting to show he can be the man to lead the line and score goals for Alan Pardew's team; it's just a shame it's taken until March for that to happen.

Wickham's goals on the night proved that the Eagles are a confident side; they looked fragile and nervous for most of the first half but came alive after the break once the former Sunderland striker drew them level.

Then the likes of Yannick Bolasie -- back for his first start since getting injured in December and proving what the team has missed without him -- and Wilfried Zaha started to stretch their legs,  and that confidence began to flow throughout the side again. But Borini's sucker punch was tough to take and probably harsh on the Eagles who had battled hard for the rest of the second half.

The wait for that first win of 2016 goes on but, much like the second half at West Brom a few days earlier, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game. If only Palace could play like that in the opening 45 minutes of games.

SunderlandSunderland
Crystal PalaceCrystal Palace
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Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Wayne Hennessey, 7 -- Unfairly took flak from Palace fans online for Borini's strike, which was hit early and swerved into the bottom corner, but couldn't really do anything for the first goal, which took a huge deflection.

DF Joel Ward, 6 -- Struggled at times against Sunderland's pacy attack but settled into his more familiar role of right-back as the game wore on.

DF Martin Kelly, 7 -- Played more defensively than Ward, who preferred to push on when given the opportunity, but was solid. Could he have closed Borini down quicker for the late equaliser, though?

DF Damien Delaney, 7 -- Allowed Jermain Defoe plenty of space in the first half to pop off a couple of shots but dealt with the former Spurs striker better in the second half.

DF Scott Dann, 6 -- Not his finest game, booked for an uncharacteristically clumsy foul early on and deflected Dame N'Doye's strike in for the game's opening goal. Set up Wickham's second with a header from a corner.

MF Yohan Cabaye, 5 -- The Frenchman is off the boil at the moment and looked disinterested again on Tuesday night, walking back when Sunderland broke on the counter at one point.

Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace
Wickham was the star for Palace but Cabaye had another disappointing game in midfield.

MF Mile Jedinak, 6 -- Won plenty of headers and broke up lots of attacks but still finds it hard to pass to a teammate. It was his sort of game, however, and he played an important role in the middle.

MF Jordon Mutch, 7 -- Palace's best midfielder on the night and although his touches and passing were sloppy at times, he worked hard to win the ball back at both ends of the pitch. Drilled a shot into the side-netting early on after a good pass from Bolasie.

MF Wilf Zaha, 6 -- Yet again he was kicked all over the park but instead of trying to get back up and beat his man, opted to go down looking for free kicks a tad too easily. Nearly beat the whole defence with some wonderful footwork in the first half and in spells, did have the Sunderland defence stretched.

MF Yannick Bolasie, 7 -- His first start since mid-December, he injected some pace and passion on the wing that's been missing. Sent over a few nice crosses but as the game wore on his lack of fitness showed.

FW Connor Wickham, 8 -- Two superbly taken goals and a proper lone man's performance up top, holding up the ball and bringing teammates into play. Arguably his best game yet for Palace since signing in the summer.

Substitutes:

MF Joe Ledley, NR - Replaced Cabaye with 15 minutes to go and got in a few nice blocks.

MF Bakary Sako, NR - Came on for Bolasie towards the end. Might have helped Kelly better and closed down Borini for the equaliser?

FW Emmanuel Adebayor, NR - A 10 minute cameo at the end for Wickham but a change that looked unnecessary.

Jim Daly is a freelance football writer and founder of Palace fanzine Five Year Plan. You can follow him on Twitter @jimdalycomedy.

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