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Palace 1-0 Plymouth

August 20 2005

Selhurst Park

Selhurst Park

A win is a win, but it was not entirely convincing, writes Simon Pophale.

Performances could get no worse than the opening day humbling to Luton Town, but at least there was a fighting spirit about the players, even if the end product left a lot to be desired.

The first half showed that this season it was going to be about battling in every game, for every point. This is not going to be the cakewalk that a lot of us had predicted, wanted or even hoped for.

Iain Dowie intimated as much in the programme notes. The opening exchanges followed suit as well, with both Argyle and ourselves giving no quarter.

Bojan Djordic was booked for dissent after only 4 minutes, leading the Plymouth “barmy army” to claim that “they always get sh*t refs”.

The first half was only notable for 2 efforts on target, which neither keeper had to worry about. Emmerson Boyce fired into the side netting from close range on 11 minutes, while Nuno Mendez headed over from a corner on 38 minutes.

While we shaded the possession, we resorted to sending long ball after long ball with no success, despite the pace of AJ and Wayne Andrews who made his first start since joining us a year ago.

The entertainment factor was extremely low, which the boos that greeted the interval clearly demonstrated.

The 2nd half started with Jobi McAnuff sprinting down the left hand channel and being upended by a somewhat agricultural challenge by Paul Wootton.

But it went quiet until McAnuff again went close, this time firing inches wide from a Ben Watson pass. Dowie by this time clearly felt that things needed changing and despite a lively 1st half, Dougie Freedman replaced Wayne Andrews on the hour.

He immediately tested Romain Larrieu with 25 yard effort, suddenly, we began to look dangerous.

2 minutes later, we made the decisive breakthrough. TOM SOARES was fouled by Rufus Brevett about 20 yards out.

Ben Watson floated over a cross which Darren Ward headed back in to the area and after a bout of head tennis, the ball came back to Ward who fired home from close range.

The game then degenerated into a mish-mash of rash challenges with yellow cards being brandished, but the game itself became a midfield battle. Plymouth only threatened rarely via a header from Wootton and a couple of Micky Evans pot-shots drifting wide of Kiralys’ goal.

A last minute scare was provided by Darren Ward, whose handball on the edge of the area stopped Scott Taylor heading onto goal. However, referee Peter Walton decided that it was accidental and showed him a yellow, it could have easily been a red.

The overall verdict was that while we got the 3 points, there is still a long way to go. But to play below average and get the result augurs well, but the performances will have to improve if we are to play some of the teams aiming to get, like ourselves, to the Premiership.

As we departed with the win, it was more a case of “Glad It’s Over” than “Glad All Over”.

Palace Man of the Match: Darren Ward - Won everything in the air and scored the winner. Lucky with the last minute handball though.

Player Ratings:

Gabor Kiraly: 7 – Had little to do, but did what he had to do well

Emmerson Boyce: 7 – Got forward well and defended competently.

Gary Borrowdale: 5 – Competant but still makes the occasional basic error. Needs to find consistency as going forward was a threat.

Darren Ward: 8 – Another good performance from him, solid in every aspect. Booked

Fitz Hall: 7 – Has formed a strong partnership with Ward in central defence.

TOM SOARES : 5 – Too often misplacing passes and struggled to make an impact.

Mikele Leigertwood: 6 – Usual hustle and bustle and won a lot of midfield battles. Booked

Ben Watson: 7 – Set pieces need some work, but has good vision in the middle of the park.

Jobi McAnuff: 7 – Should have scored but caused Plymouth problems all afternoon. Booked

Wayne Andrews: 6 – Did well and has incredible pace. Sadly, his first touch let him down too often.

Andy Johnson: 6 – Quiet game for AJ, he will find himself marked man this season.

Subs: Dougie Freedman (60 minutes for Andrews): 6 – Looked dangerous from the moment he stepped on the pitch

Danny Butterfield (88 minutes for SOARES) and Aki Riihilaati (89 minutes for Watson) – too late to make an impact.

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