Wednesday, 15 May 2013

13/05/13 League Play Off Semi Final Brighton (a) 2-0 win

The scene was set in the first leg at Selhurst
(Picture courtesy of @cpfcmarcus)

After the tense viewing of the first game at Selhurst the build up to this one did not feel quite the same. We had lost something. Not a game but a player. A player that I had in my mind was the one reason we had a chance of getting to the play off final. I was not alone in this thinking, we went in to the game with a glimmer, but that was it.

The confidence of Brighton suited them down to the ground. Of course, the finished higher than Palace and their run into the play offs saw them in some great form. What could go wrong?

The line ups were pretty much the same only for Wilbraham replacing the injured Murray. That latter was of course at the game but on crutches awaiting the results of his earlier scan. The overwhelming view from Palace fans was 'Do It for Murray!'.

We had a chance if we kept it clean for the first twenty, without conceding and working our way into the game. And this is exactly how it started. Palace having a lot of the ball, a completely different game to Friday. The home side looked nervous in front of their clapper waving, hat wearing, sing from a script fans but they started to put the pressure. We tried to get Wilf on the ball earlier but a mixture of his first touch and the ball not quite reaching him was missing somewhat. This led to a great chance for Brighton, Zaha tries to run the ball out of the back line and he loses to ball only for the home side to fire in a shot which Speroni does well to clear. But we were to witness a back line performance that we had not seen in a while.

The first half continued in similar vein but we looked more comfortable on the ball, Garvan and KG working things well in the middle while being ably supported by Jedi snuffing out the runs down the centre. Full backs Moxey and Ward were both in great form as were Delaney and Gabbidon in the centre. Pretty much everything that was fired in the penalty area was either over hit or cleared. You'd think Brighton were used to playing at home though. A windy night and they were still putting high balls across which obviously held up and gave the defender a fighting chance.

The half pretty much ended with Calderon over running the ball down the touchline and attempting to decapitate Wilf who had just nicked the ball off his toes. I have to say, while the home full back was booked for the despicable challenge, if that was a Palace player I'm certain he'd have seen a different colours card.

At the half and it was goalless. Three quarters of the tie played with a quarter still to go. We had a chance, still a glimmer but the more we pushed them and held them off the more likely they are to start playing the referee more than us and the atmosphere (what there was of it from the home side fans!) would turn extremely tense.

There was an awful lot at stake, but Palace came out and appeared to play with more freedom. It was a little bit of a worry as we had not seen that in a while, but confidence grew and we started taking the game to Brighton. A few chances here and there and then the best fell to Williams. A fantastic through ball by Wilf and run from Johnny but he put it just wide. Wilf was now in the mood, looking for the ball at every opportunity. We were pulling their defence apart, but that miss from Williams made his head drop and a combination of that and suffering from cramp in the first game saw our first move from the bench. And we were going for it. Bolasie and Moritz on replacing Williams and Garvan.

Pivotal. The decision to attack what looked a vulnerable Brighton defence was inspired. Holloway has made such decisions already but rarely paid off. Tonight it did, almost instantly. Moritz brought some more composure on the ball and Bolasie a little bit of what Zaha offers. More for Brighton to think about. And then it came. It's quite a blur of emotion but some fantastic work down the touchline and Bolasie whipped in the cross. And it was Zaha with something from his repertoire rarely seen, a diving header! Delirium, emotion, screams shouts, everything! Palace were one goal up but being the usual fan it was time to look at the clock. Twenty to go.

And in all honesty, even though Brighton had a chance that hit the crossbar there were all over the place and we were picking them off. Still the fans were nervous as the minutes ticked away. The home fans were stunned, rarely singing or encouraging their team, most were already in tears. This was not to mention the potential shouts for penalties that should have been given during the game. Then Palace did something that they rarely do, ever. Zaha picked up the ball, back to goal in the penalty area, turned the defender and fired home hard and high. It was two! Pandemonium reigned down on the heroes in yellow. It was done, the impossible was done. Not a hope they said. This is Palace we said! We dreamed the impossible dream and the lads delivered in style. Now a small matter of one more game. We started to defeat at home to Watford at Selhurst. Time to write that wrong?

Boss Ian Holloway - "Every one of them burst their heart tonight. They were brave. A couple of weeks ago they didn't feel like that because things weren't going for us. We'd lost our 30-goal talisman, everyone wrote us off but you can't do that. If Brighton scored first I don't think I'd be here now doing this interview. People had said that I'd lost the dressing room but I know where it is, down the corridor on the left. What a load of rubbish. How many others teams have had wobbles? It's a joke. I don't need to motivate myself. I know what I'm doing. Taking over a different style takes a while. I'm delighted for my club, it feels like my club now. I was on a loser all along but now I'm the winner because these guys are awesome I've been there but my players haven't. I can bring calmness to a situation. I didn't used to have patience. I'm bursting with pride. We have two weeks to get ready for a wonderful occasion"

View from The Eagles Beak - "What can be said after those words from Holloway? Bursting with pride is quite the description. Emotional. Every player did a massive job on that pitch and it's a result that goes down in Palace folklore. It's been such a roller coaster season but there is one more stop remaining and I definitely don't want to be getting off!"

01 Speroni
02 Ward
21 Moxey
27 Delaney
33 Gabbidon
08 Dikgacoi - booked
10 Garvan (Moritz 61')
15 Jedinak
20 Williams (Bolasie 62')
16 Zaha GOALS 69' & 88' (O'Keefe 90')
18 Wilbraham

Unused substitutes - 34 Price, 28 Ramage, 03 Richards, 09 Phillips

Referee - Clattenburg
Attendance - 29,518

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

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