By Tim Hodges
Crystal Palace 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
Albion came from behind to draw with arch-rivals Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this evening (Tuesday 31 January).
Both teams scored from penalty kicks although Albion were in the ascendancy late on and could have snatched a famous win.
Alan Navarro replaced Jake Forster-Caskey in Albion’s starting line up and new signing Sam Vokes started on the bench.
Chances were fairly evenly matched in the first half, Sean Scannell and Wilfried Zaha having half chances for Palace, while Albion’s best attempts were when Navarro shot straight at Palace keeper Julian Speroni.
Later in the first half Craig Mackail-Smith had a super effort well saved by Speroni.
Albion began to find their feet, although Will Buckley slipped at a vital point when he was just about to deliver a cross to the waiting Ashley Barnes and Mackail-Smith.
Palace finished the half with a succession of corners but nothing came from these and the teams went in at half time with the score goal-less.
Albion very much bossed the start of the second half, Navarro and Liam Bridcutt combining well in midfield and creating half chances for both Barnes and Mackail-Smith.
Inigo Calderon was beginning to make some advances on the overlap. He and Buckley began to worry the Palace defence, who included the Albion’s 2005 Selhurst hero Paul McShane.
It was, however, Palace who drew first blood. Buckley, tracking back to cover a defence position, clumsily tackled Zaha. Stuart Attwell, the referee not unaccustomed to controversy, pointed to the spot.
Chris Martin fired the ball past Albion keeper Peter Brezovan to put Palace in front.
Albion didn’t respond immediately, instead doing what they do best, maintaining possession and building slowly and cleverly from the back.
With 20 minutes left Poyet replaced Mackail-Smith and Matt Sparrow with Vokes and Toby Agdestein.
Within minutes of the change, Buckley in his more accustomed position ran at Nathaniel Clyne. The full back, nervous of Buckley’s trickery, hacked down Albion’s man of the moment.
It was the referee’s assistant who flagged and gave Albion the penalty and even then Attwell appeared reluctant to point to the spot.
Barnes coolly stroked the ball into the bottom corner, far out of Speroni’s reach, to put the Seagulls level at 1-1.
Albion strived for a winner. Agdestein made a great run through the defence and slipped the ball to Barnes, but he shot wide.
Calderon had another superb strike although this time Speroni made another great save.
Albion tried to get the ball into Vokes late on but sadly to no avail.
Poyet will be pleased with a point but it could and possibly should have been all three.
Albion: Brezovan; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd; Bridcutt, Navarro, Sparrow; Buckley, Barnes, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Ankergren, Vincelot, Forster-Caskey, Agdestein, Vokes
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Clyne, McShane, Gardner, Parr; Dikgacoi, Jedinak; Zaha, Martin, Scannell; Easter. Subs: Price, Ambrose, Garvan, Egan, Murray
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).