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Murray injury blow in derby draw
Friday, 10 May 2013
Crystal Palace 0 Brighton 0
CRYSTAL Palace are still firmly in contention for the Championship play-off final - but look like they will have to achieve Premier League football without talismanic striker Glenn Murray.
The 31-goal top-scorer appeared to twist his left knee as he tried to turn inside the Brighton penalty area just after the hour mark and was stretchered off.
Unless the Palace number 17 makes a miraculous recovery - an unlikely scenario as he slammed his hand down in pain on the Selhurst Park turf - then his team-mates will need someone else to take on the scoring mantle at the Amex Stadium on Monday night.
But they can draw confidence from their second half performance in SE25 - a major improvement on a nervy and disjointed opening 45 minutes.
Both teams had a half each where they were in the ascendency - Brighton settled more quickly while Palace came out more revved up after the restart - but neither could find the goal that might have added an extra twist to what already looks at intriguing second leg on the South Coast.
The contrast between the two sides' form could not have been more stark with the hosts winning just one of their final 10 matches while Brighton could boast a nine-game unbeaten run.
Palace's total of 14 points from their last 12 games means you have to go back to Bolton in 1995 for the last time a team with as poor a sequence of results has won the play-offs.
Palace made just the one change to the side that completed their normal campaign as Jonny Williams came in for Yannick Bolasie, who dropped to the bench.
Brighton - already assured of a play-off spot with a game to spare in their schedule - brought back the rested quartet of Dean Hammond, Andrea Orlandi, Wayne Bridge and Will Buckley. Inigo Calderon returned from suspension.
And the confidence that the Seagulls had coming into the derby was there for all to see in the opening 45 minutes as they settled the quicker and had the best chances.
There was an early chance for Leonardo Ulloa as Wayne Bridge got away from Joel Ward to send in a pacy cross from the left but the Uruaguayan could only direct his header past the right post.
And it needed a reflex parry from Julian Speroni to prevent the Seagulls from going ahead on 20 minutes. Buckley's cross from the right picked out an unmarked Hammond but fortunately his header was straight at the Palace keeper.
Palace's best opportunity was a long-distance drive from Williams which went narrowly beyond the left upright.
And referee Michael Oliver overlooked Matthew Upson getting a grip of Glenn Murray with both his hands as the pair competed for a high ball into the Albion box. The linesman also had a clear view of the incident and did not flag.
The Eagles settled down a little more as the end of the half approached but Brighton's diligent defending - typified by Hammond's block on Owen Garvan's shot - meant they had little joy in testing Tomasz Kuszczak.
Palace had hinted they were going to be more of a handful in Brighton's final third and the second half saw them come out and play at a higher tempo and with a greater intensity.
Wilfried Zaha drilled the ball across the face of goal - with Murray and Williams unable to get a vital final touch - and then came the home side's best opportunity on 59 minutes. Danny Gabbidon's header from Owen Garvan's free-kick forced a sinew-stretching save from Kuszczak and as the ball screwed towards goal it was powered clear by Orlandi.
Calderon cleared a scuffed Kagisho Dikgacoi shot - although replays showed it was heading wide of the target - while Yannick Bolasie smeared a right-footed shot a few feet wide after good hold-up play by Aaron Wilbraham.
Palace are looking to equal Ipswich's record of seven promotions to the Premier League. And there were enough encouraging signs that they can achieve that feat.
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