Palace boss puts faith in Ea­gles

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFFS - By Chris Dunlavy

CRYS­TAL PALACE boss Ian Hol­loway hit back at his side’s de­trac­tors af­ter a bat­tling draw with play-off favourites Brighton.

Win­less in nine be­fore a dra­matic fi­nal day vic­tory against Peter­bor­ough, the out-of-form Ea­gles have been widely tipped to strug­gle in the play­offs. In per­fect con­trast, op­po­nents and bit­ter ri­vals Brighton fin­ished the sea­son un­beaten in nine, the best run in the di­vi­sion.

Yet those who ex­pected a re­peat of Palace’s meek 3-0 sur­ren­der at the Amex in March were to be dis­ap­pointed, with the home side re­cov­er­ing from a nervy start to fin­ish jus­ti­fi­ably dis­ap­pointed with a draw af­ter see­ing two ef­forts cleared off the line.

“Peo­ple now know we’re not as bad as they might have thought,” said Hol­loway. “And I think my lads have re­alised ‘Hang on a minute, we can get at th­ese and we aren’t bad at soak­ing up pres­sure’.

“Re­ports of our demise have been ex­ag­ger­ated. We’re not a bad team. I know we’ve had some bad re­sults, but we’ve not ac­tu­ally de­served them.

“I could see the strength com­ing back here. We gained in con­fi­dence, gained the as­cen­dancy. All we didn’t do was score. Now we’ll go there and they’ll have to watch us be­cause we’re not bad at counter-at­tack­ing.”

Hol­loway, though, will be with­out 30-goal top scorer Glenn Mur­ray, who left on a stretcher af­ter twist­ing his knee late in the sec­ond half.

“He won’t be fit on Mon­day,” con­firmed Hol­loway.“We’re not sure what it is yet, but the doc­tor is say­ing pos­si­ble dam­age to his cru­ci­ate.”

Given the flam­boy­ant rep­u­ta­tion of th­ese two sides, it was tempt­ing to ex­pect a foot­balling feast. Alas, the oc­ca­sion proved far too pro­hib­i­tive.

Other than a few rapier thrusts from Wil­fried Zaha and Jonny Wil­liams, the first 45 min­utes was a frac­tured, messy af­fair. Palace in par­tic­u­lar looked dread­fully jit­tery, the vis­i­tors very nearly pun­ish­ing them in the first ten min­utes as Leo Ul­loa and then Dean Ham­mond spurned headed chances.

For a while it seemed Brighton would over­whelm them, but to Palace’s credit – and that of all-ac­tion mid­fielder Mile Je­d­i­nak – the home side pressed, bat­tled and tack­led their way to some­thing ap­proach­ing a level foot­ing.

GET­TING A LEG UP: Brighton’s Liam Brid­cutt, left, chal­lenges Aaron Wil­bra­ham

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