Sunday, 12 May 2013

10/05/13 League Play Off Semi Final Brighton (h) 0-0 draw

It's good to be here. The play-offs. It did look at one stage that we would miss out with our terrible end of season form. But Palace have a special affinity with the post season games so we should not have worried.

An evening game is special at Selhurst especially when it's packed out ...

I was hoping we would in fact make it closer and drop to sixth place but in all honesty you just cannot time these things and you have to grab the chance with both hands. Three games from a possible return to the Premiership. Mouth watering thought. And yes, we are all aware of our form towards the end of the season but so what? Form is temporary.

So here we have it. The first leg against Brighton. The first time the two teams have met outside of a normal league game since the Zenith Data Systems Cup tie all those years ago at the Goldstone Ground. An awful lot has happened in that time and here we are. Going into the game Palace secured their first win in a while in the final game of the regular season against Peterborough who were relegated. Brighton however were unbeaten in nine games.

A wonderful sunny evening and the atmosphere was electric. The Palace fans know how to back their team and this was perhaps the best I had witnessed in some time. I took my seat in the Arthur Wait stand but didn't not realise I was only going to use it at half time!

The game kicked off and Brighton started as they meant to go on. Some good possession and out passing the home side. Luckily for Palace it looked pretty and even though us fans were fretting they really did not have a clinical edge. Palace were more worryingly becoming second to the ball and Brighton were picking up all the loose passes. But the defence made me very comfortable for one, Delaney and Gabbidon marshaling the centre well with Moxey and the fantastic Ward ably supporting them. Perhaps the home side had the jitters more so and the only real clear chance of the half went to Brighton. A shot from Hammond and Speroni responded with a fantastic reflex save. The brightest player for Palace was Williams who seemed to be everywhere. But a very disappointing half for the home side.

The second half was quite different. After Holloway had done his job in the changing rooms Palace came out and pressed Brighton more and more. It was forcing the visitors into mistakes, making them moan at the referee more and more. Chances came and went for both teams, Williams instrumental in everything Palace did and Bridcutt similar for the vistors.

The team was settling more, looking more comfortable on the ball but there wasa  lot more urgency. The crowd continued in the same vein and it spurred the lads on. Defence looking more solid that in recent weeks, KG doing the usual unsung hero job, Jedi being Jedi, Williams everywhere but Zaha out of sorts. Murray and Garvan chasing everything down and Brighton did not like that. Pulling shirts, man handling players, they tried everything even started playing the referee but pushed on. We were in the ascendancy but no one envisaged what was about to happen.

Murray chased down the ball from a corner, turned quickly in the area and seemed to catch his studs in the turf. He hit the floor and I for one had a sickening feeling in my stomach. I knew. The fan behind me didn't. He thought it was Zaha! My heart sunk at the thought that our one chance of getting through the players was leaving Selhurst on a stretcher.

To fill the massive void, on came Aaron Wilbraham. A player subject to a lot of criticism after his performances in a Palace shirt, but after this substitute appearance, I'd be happy for him to start the 2nd leg. He chased down everything, as had Murray. He put himself about, was even grabbed around the throat in the area by Upson.

The second half was ours but we just could not make it count. Both teams huffed and puffed but the visitors were tiring, and we could sense blood. Unfortunately, the game was to end a stalemate and finely poised for the second leg on Monday.

It was Zaha's farewell to Selhurst, at least in a Palace shirt. It perhaps was not as emotional as it should have been as all had their thoughts firmly on the next game and what could happen. I was expecting more from Wilf, he did get into the game in the second half but he scared the life out of the visitors, often putting three men on him. But we are still in this and I for one have a very good feeling about Monday night. Maybe foolishly but us fans have been here before even if the players haven't.

Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway; "The doctors are having a look at Glenn and he'll need a scan. It could be all sorts of things but the doctors fear it is cruciate ligament damage. I'm pleased with the performance, and I thought we finished strongly even after losing Glenn.
We'd have liked a lead but we didn't get one. But it's still all to fight for and all to play for."

View from The Eagles Beak; "A true tale of two halves. Very poor first for Palace but battled back in the second. Brighton are pretty with their play but don't like to be hassled on the ball. We know what to do in the 2nd leg, and that's do it for Murray!"

01 Speroni
02 Ward
21 Moxey
27 Delaney
33 Gabbidon
08 Dikgacoi
10 Garvan (Phillips '86)
15 Jedinak - booked
20 Williams (Bolasie '76)
16 Zaha
17 Murray (Wilbraham '67)

Subs not used - 34 Price, 28 Ramage, 22 O'Keefe, 30 Moritz

Referee - Oliver
Attendance - 23,294

Article for The Eagles Beak by Jason Crame (@JayTheEagle)

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