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June 15 2024 11.27pm

Stockport County 0 - 1 Palace

Sunday May 6 2001 - League

A late Dougie Freedman goal against Stockport and a 2-1 win by Birmingham over Huddersfield, secured First Division Football for Crystal Palace in dramatic circumstances.

His superbly-taken goal in the 87th minute secured the three points needed for survival after it looked like the Eagles were doomed only a week earlier.

Palace caretaker-manager Steve Kember fielded the same side which beat Portsmouth in midweek in search of a win to secure Division One status.

They started well and Freedman came close early on, but Ally Gibb cleared the ball from the line.

With the scores elsewhere going against them Palace needed a win, one point was not enough.

Clinton Morrison and Mikael Forsell had chances to put The Eagles ahead, but they found keeper Lee Jones in their path or shot wide.

Just before the interval, Stockport could have gone one up through Shefqi Kuqi, but he squandered his chance.

After the break, there were chances for Stockport through Hurst and Palace through Aki Riihilathi, but the score stayed 0-0.

Portsmouth went 3-0 up against Barnsley and Palace knew they needed a goal and poured forward. At the other end, it was Aaron Wilbraham who hit the side netting from close range.

Then three minutes before the final whistle, the 3,000 Eagles fans were in ecstasy when Freedman gave Palace a priceless goal.

He picked up a long ball from deep in the Palace half, jinked his way past two defenders and fired into the net from inside the box to send the Palace fans into raptures.

But Palace fans had an agonising wait at the final whistle for news of the Birmingham game against Huddersfield. Birmingham held on to their 2-1 victory at the McAlpine Stadium, which meant The Terriers and not Palace were condemned to the Second Division.

Post match comments

Hero Freedman said his winner against Stockport was the most important goal of his career.

He said: "I've never scored a more vital goal than that. It keeps us in the First Division. We were under a lot of pressure but we showed a lot of character. We wanted to stay up and we have stayed up. We did it for each other."

Freedman was hailed by his striking partner Morrison. He said: "Dougie's worked hard all season and I'm pleased for him that he's got the goal. It's great.

"I didn't think it was going to be our day - we were missing a lot of chances - but then Dougie popped up and put one away."

Caretaker boss Steve Kember added: "Dougie turned on a little bit of magic for us, which he said he would do at half-time.

"Most of it was extremely tense but I always knew if we just got one late chance, a guy like Dougie would grab it."

Kember is now one of the favourites to get the Palace hot seat, but he played down his role in keeping Palace in the First Division.

"I was in a no-lose situation," he said. "If I won two games everybody would be ecstatic and call me a hero. If we lost them both, it was what was expected."

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Match Stats

Ground: Edgely Park (Attendance: 9782)

Stockport County: Jones, Gibb, Flynn, Clare, Woodthorpe, Smith (Roget, 65), Fradin, Kuqi, Clark, Wilbraham, Hurst (Nicholson, 54)

Subs not used: Bryngelsson, Briggs, Maxwell

Palace: Kolinko, Austin, Mullins, Berhalter, Smith, Thomson (Black, 77), Carlisle (Hopkin, 65), Riihilahti, Forssell, Morrison, Freedman

Subs not used: Gregg, Hankin, Evans

Referee: A R Leake (Darwen)

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