March 25 2006
Ian Dowie described automatic promotion as 'statistically possible' after the win against Leeds on Tuesday night, writes Tim Sansom.
Statistical Possibilities? ‘Damned Lies and Statistics’ for Palace by Tim Sansom
In theory it is still possible this Saturday night, and you can not hysterically say that Palace’s promotion push is now in 'crisis' after this defeat against Derby.
However, the league stats will not make such happy reading tonight and to a large extent, the ‘Rams’ should have won by more if Kiraly had not been on spectacular goalkeeping form.
Having been invited to watch the Eagles by a Palace fan, this Ipswich follower was excited about seeing one of the genuine play-off hopefuls in action whilst his team’s season was collapsing into the long lazy days of summer.
When Palace played Ipswich on Boxing Day at Portman Road, the visitors had generally the better play and were unlucky to get two players sent off. Free-flowing football was previewed to me by two Palace fans (Robert Pace and Robert Bellinger) on the train to Derby, and we also found time to reminisce about the Palace heroes of days gone by.
After some fantastic 70s disco anthems from the PA system to welcome the two teams to the pitch, Derby had marginally the upper hand in the opening minutes of the game, although Jobi McAnuff was immediately impressive with his surges through the midfield channels.
Clinton Morrison’s tap-in after 18 minutes was largely against the run of play. Palace let Derby attack especially down the wings, despite Dowie’s continual verbal and physical anguish on the touchline.
Idio Idiakez equalised for the Rams on 28 minutes, although Tommy Smith was seriously troubling the Palace back line. McAnuff hit a stunning shot against the crossbar on 30 minutes and the first half was genuinely entertaining for the neutral, although I can imagine frustrating for the home and away fans.
The second half opened to Palace adopting a more attacking attitude in the early stages. The Derby goalkeeper inexplicably appeared to possess the handling ability of a blamange, but the series of corners, free-kicks, and mazy runs by messers Andy Johnson, McAnuff and Morrison did not help Palace find the second goal.
Derby gained some self belief and Kiraly impressively saved a series of one-on-one situations with Lisbie and Idiakez. By the 87th minute, it should have been 4-0 to Derby. Derby gained for their pressure as the clock ticked on to the 90th minute, when Alan Wiley awarded a penalty to the home side after Darren Ward had tripped Lisbie, and Idiakez coolly slotted in the winning goal (although Kiraly initially parmed away the first shot). Cue celebrations in the Derby end which suggested as if they had won the European Cup.
My initial discussions with the Palace fans on the train, had made me feel genuinely sympathetic with the Palace players and their faithful, so in some ways, I was sad to see their team loose.
However, I was genuinely surprised at how ordinary some of the players played in a game that they should have won. It might have been my fault for ‘hyping up’ the ability of Mikele Leigertwood, Aki Riihilahti and the rest on the mind, but I was surprised to see Johnson occasionally just off the pace in the 50:50 tackle.
From the body language of the Derby players, they wanted this game more than Palace which was weird considering the visitors were in the play-off positions. The final table statistics do not lie but you have to hope that this game will be the spur for Palace to increase their enthusiasm for the season run in. In no sense of the word is their season over.
Derby County: L Camp, R Jackson, L Nyatanga, D Moore, A Wright, T Smith, A Bolder, I Idiakez, G Barnes, M McIndoe, K Lisbie.
Subs: K Poole, M Bisgaard, P Peschisolido, P Thirlwell, M Edworthy.
Crystal Palace: G Kiraly, E Boyce, D Ward, F Hall, M Leigertwood, J McAnuff, B Watson, A Riihilahti, M Hughes, A Johnson, C Morrison.
Subs: J Speroni, T Popovic, D Freedman, T Soares, M Reich.
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