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June 2 2023 7.17pm

Crewe Alexandra 0 - 0 Palace

Sun Apr 7 2002 - League

An uninterested Palace side played out an entertaining goal-less draw away to Crewe and had to thank keeper Alex Kolinko for a series of fine stops for the point.

The Latvian returned to the side after recovering from injury to replace Matt Clarke, who has been told to rest after swelling his eye against Birmingham.

Kolinko deserved his man of the match award against the struggling Railwaymen and seemed like the only one bothered. It was the second blank draw for Palace after Monday's 0-0 with Birmingham.

Crewe started brightly and Kolinko was first called into action when he saved Efe Sodje's close range header from a corner. Sodje outjumped the casual Hayden Mullins, Kolinko parried it to Dave Walton and he skied over the rebound.

From another corner, Kolinko saved Dean Ashton's six-yard effort. Then Clinton Morrison had his only real attempt of the game in the 16th minute. His volley from a Julian Gray cross from the left went just wide.

Kolinko made another top save, this time from Rob Hulse's header and Rodney Jack struck a fierce shot inches over the bar from distance. Ashton saw two more of his shots skied over the bar.

Steve Thomson had to go off injured and was replaced by Simon Rodger, who was back from his injury problems.

Two minutes before the break, Ade Akinbiyi was unlucky not to score when his header hit the top of the crossbar from Gray's left side corner.

But the make-shift Palace defence was a shambles. Crewe were winning everything in the air, outjumping the back three of Mullins, Dean Austin and Danny Granville.

Luckily Kolinko spared their blushes throughout the game. Hulse then found Kolinko in his way again as the ref blew for half-time.

For the second half, Trevor Francis took off a disappointing Morrison and brought on Tommy Black.

Black moved to right wing and Dougie Freedman, who was having a poor game, moved up front to partner Akinbiyi and the team went to 4-4-2. Palace were rejuvinated and Black was causing the Crewe defence problems with his runs.

For all Palace's possession, they could not force keeper Ademola Bankole into any saves and Kolinko was the busier of the two keepers, thwarting another Sodje headed corner.

Jack had another shot on goal just wide of the post and earlier on was unlucky not have won a free-kick after being pulled down by Austin. Akinbiyi had another decent header cleared off the line.

Gray had a clear run on goal and wasted his final shot. Freedman missed a close-range header from a Simon Rodger pass and Black had a goal ruled out for off-side.

In the 90th minute, fullback Andrew Frampton replaced substitute Black, in a bizarre "defensive" decision by Francis. But it was good to see Frampton after his horrific knee injury sustained last summer.

And with the last kick off the game, Aki Rihiilahti and Akinbiyi got in each other's way to fluff a close-range opoortunity as the whistle went for full-time. A Palace late winner would have been an injustice to Crewe as a draw was a fair result all round.

Man of the Match: Kolinko - pulled off a series of outstanding saves to keep a clean sheet.

Post match comments:

Trevor Francis said: "We didn't go forward enough in the first half and were lucky not to be behind at half time.

"We needed our keeper to make three good saves to keep us in the match and he certainly did that. I thought Gray was outstanding and gave them problems.

"The Easter results meant that we had only remote chance of getting into the play-offs going into this match.

"I put this team out looking for commitment but our players knew that the opportunity had gone and found it difficult to stay focused.

"We were much stronger in the second half and looked like scoring after I had changed the format.

"There was no excuse for the poor way we approached the first half. It could be argued that Crewe needed the points more than we did but I expected a lot better from the team I selected.

"I will now expect nothing less than 100 per cent from my players in the last two matches against Preston and West Brom and I will not tolerate any more inept displays like we showed early on against Crewe."

Crewe manager Dario Gradi said: "We played well and I can't blame the players for lacking effort. The boys haven't got their shooting boots on and we are missing good opportunities.

"But I still think the front players are the best we've got to get us a goal in the next three games.

"I was pleased with the way they played - especially as we've had a lot of games in the past few days.

"They might have been nervous, but there's no reason why they should have been. I'm certainly not. If we are good enough we will stay and if not we will go down."

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Match Stats

Ground: The Alexandra Stadium (Attendance: 6734)

Crewe Alexandra: Bankole, Wright, Smith, Walton, Sodje (Foster, 83), Lunt, Sorvel, Whalley (Vaughan, 83), Jack, Hulse, Ashton

Bookings: Walton, Ashton

Palace: Kolinko, Fleming, Granville, Austin, Mullins, Thomson (Rodger, 36), Riihilahti, Gray, Akinbiyi, Freedman, Morrison (Black, 46 (Frampton, 90))

Referee: B Knight (Orpington)

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