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October 28 2020 10.45pm

Gray cloud's Black lining?

May 26 2004

Julian Gray

Julian Gray

Winger Julian Gray's suspension from Saturday's Play-off final has given manager Iain Dowie a selection headache ahead of the Millennium Stadium showpiece, Joseph O'Shea.

The Palace boss' calls for referee David Pugh to rescind the first of Gray's bookings, have fallen on deaf ears, and the influential 24-year-old will now miss the final.

While Dowie accepted the second yellow card was correct, he had hoped that before he retired, the Merseyside official would overturn Gray’s first for an accidental trip on Sean Thornton.

Dowie said: "It's a tragedy for the lad. No one can tell me he deserves to miss a big big game because of that. But we have got to get on with it."

Gray told his website: "I’m completely and utterly crushed. The Final will be the hardest game I have ever had to watch."

But now Dowie must decide how to replace a key creator, who has featured in all his Palace selections.

He is keeping his options close to his chest, but did say he has two or three options.

He said: "I have lots of thoughts and I am fairly settled in my mind."

Unless he recalls 19-year-old left back Gary Borrowdale and pushes Danny Granville onto the wing, Wayne Routledge is likely to switch from the right wing as he often does during games.

Tommy Black could then deputise on the right of a four man midfield, or Jamie Smith could return at right back with Danny Butterfield moving onto the right of midfield.

A tactical switch to a 3-5-2 formation, could see a recall for either Dougie Freedman behind the front two or Darren Powell on the right of a back three.

All the options at his disposal have been tested at some stage this season, and the number of options at Dowie's disposal could keep Alan Pardew guessing until 2pm on Saturday.

Meanwhile Dowie confirmed that Fulham defender Mark Hudson, who spent three months on loan with Palace, has been invited to Cardiff by the club.

Live Croydon Guardian text commentary

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