Crystal Palace’s promotion bid took another turn for the worse despite a stalemate against Brighton.
The Eagles, who only clung on to a place in the top six with a first win in ten matches last weekend, managed to cancel out their arch-rivals in the first leg of their play-off semi-final at Selhurst Park. But they surely face an uphill task when they head down the M23 for Monday’s second leg after 30-goal top scorer Glenn Murray was stretchered off.
The former Seagulls striker collapsed in agony after appearing to get his studs caught in the turf in the second half, and his play-off campaign looks over. Meanwhile, the eagerly-anticipated meeting between two clubs who have been exchanging unpleasantries since the days of Terry Venables and Alan Mullery in the 1970s finished all-square.
There may be 44 miles between these sides but there is no love lost, and nothing could separate them in south London. In contrast to Palace, Brighton came into the game on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run.
And it was clear in the first half which team was in form with Brighton opening up a nervous-looking Palace side with their trademark slick passing.
Palace responded in the second half as Owen Garvan’s cross was met by Danny Gabbidon but his header was kept out by Tomasz Kuszczak, with Andrea Orlandi completing the clearance. Palace’s evening went sour when Murray tried to turn sharply in the box, crumpled to the ground and needed lengthy treatment before leaving the action on a stretcher. Yet they almost grabbed a late winner from another Garvan cross which Kagisho Dikgacoi tried to bundle home, but Iñigo Calderon was on hand to hack the ball clear.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Delaney, Gabbidon, Moxey, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Garvan (Phillips 86), Williams (Bolasie 76), Murray (Wilbraham 67), Zaha. Subs Not Used: Price, O’Keefe, Ramage, Moritz.
Brighton: Kuszczak, Calderon, Greer, Upson, Bridge, Bridcutt, Lopez, Hammond, Buckley (LuaLua 73), Ulloa, Orlandi (Barnes 86). Subs Not Used: Ankergren, El-Abd,Crofts, Vicente, Painter.
Referee: M Oliver.