Football: Cambridge discover the will to win

Cambridge United 2 Crystal Palace 0
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The Independent Online
THE FA Cup may be bereft of its holders this year, but in all other aspects the competition has retained its essential ingredients, as Crystal Palace found to their cost at the Abbey Stadium last night. Driving rain, a tight, cramped ground full to bursting and suitably eager opponents as underdogs all combined for the side second from bottom of the Second Division to see off their rivals from 31 League places above them in the First Division in this third-round tie.

Palace started off this decade by reaching the Cup final, only losing after a replay against Manchester United, but they finished it with an abject performance and third-round elimination against a Cambridge side who comfortably bridged the gap between the two divisions.

This tie was stacked with memories and omens as the two sides had met on this ground at the quarter-final stage during Palaces run to that final, and they won that game by a single goal. With 74 minutes gone here last night, Crystal Palace's manager, Steve Coppell must have been wishing for those days again.

He was in charge nine years ago but there was to be no repeat once Trevor Benjamin, a Cambridge trainee, had latched on to his goalkeeper's huge clearance and capitalised on Fraser Digby's hesitation in the Palace goal to head into an empty net. The midfielder Paul Wanless then doubled the lead seven minutes later with a perfect header from John Taylor's cross.

However Palace, despite underperforming, missed chances at crucial stages, which must have made their creditors wince as much as Coppell in the dugout. Palace are pounds 20m-plus in debt and were looking forward to a lucrative Cup run to help them out, but from as early as the seventh minute, when Leon McKenzie missed an open goal from Matt Svensson's cross, it seemed it was not going to be the Eagles' night.

After Benjamin's strike, Palace raised their game and should have equalised within a minute. Cambridge failed to clear a corner and when the ball was hooked back in, Fan Zhiyi failed to beat the goalkeeper from only five yards out.

Palace paid for that miss when Wanless headed in and as Palace panicked, their midfielder Hayden Mullins charged in to Butler to receive his marching orders six minutes from time.

Cambridge United (4-3-3): Marshall; Wilson, Kavanagh, Joseph, McNeil; Ashbee, Wanless, MacKenzie; Taylor, Butler, Benjamin. Substitutes not used: Youngs, Preece, Russell, Eustace, Van Heusden (gk).

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Digby; Linighan, Zhiyi, Frampton (Woozley, 83), Austin; Rizzo (Smith, 64), Mullins, Foster, Roger; Svensson, McKenzie. Substitutes not used: Sharpley, Evans, Mautone (gk).

Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt).