Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Palace come back from the brink: Lincoln run out of luck

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Lincoln City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(aet; score at 90 min, 1-0; Palace win 3-1 on aggregate)

THREE DAYS after beating Arsenal to secure their first Premiership victory of the season, Crystal Palace went perilously close to going out of the Coca-Cola Cup to Third Division opposition at Selhurst Park last night.

Lincoln City, leading 1-0 from the first leg, were on the verge of a famous victory until they conceded their first goal in this second-round tie in the fifth minute of injury time. A remarkable goal it was too. Nigel Martyn, the Palace goalkeeper, set up a last-ditch attack by charging forward with the ball into the centre circle and Dean Gordon, the left-back, completed the move by heading in John Salako's cross at the far post.

Once they had earned their reprieve, Palace had little difficulty winning the tie in extra time. Chris Armstrong, who had not scored since the first day of the season, put Palace ahead on aggregate with a towering header from Salako's cross. And Bruce Dyer ended Lincoln's spirited resistance by shooting past Andy Leaning after a perceptive through ball by his fellow substitute, Brian Launders.

Sam Ellis, the Lincoln manager, refused to question the referee's timekeeping. 'I would do my players a disservice by complaining about that,' he said. 'I would be highlighting a part of the game I do not want to. Referees are the only breed who cannot be criticised and do not make mistakes.'

Although unable to hide his disappointment at the outcome, Ellis paid tribute to his team's resolute performance and particularly that of Leaning, his goalkeeper.

Alan Smith, the Palace manager, praised his team for their refusal to give up hope. 'I didn't think at any time that we were going out because we stuck to our task,' he said. 'This team never gives in. It would have been an incredible injustice if we hadn't gotten anything out of the tie, because we totally dominated the two games.'

Palace had begun confidently, stroking the ball around the pitch and attacking fluently as they forced nine corners in the first 25 minutes. For all their possession, however, they created only a handful of half-chances until an extraordinary passage of play in the last 20 minutes of the second half when they besieged the Lincoln goal.

Leaning pulled off a series of breathtaking saves as Palace created chance after chance. Their misery appeared to be complete when Armstrong put Dyer's cross over the bar from five yards and then saw Leaning parry his diving header with just one minute of normal time remaining.

Lincoln had defended resolutely and despite the Palace onslaught in the later stages they never lost their composure. Colin Greenall and Grant Brown were outstanding in the centre of the Lincoln defence, but the height of their ambition was merely to defend their lead from the first leg. In the whole 120 minutes Lincoln barely troubled Martyn in the Palace goal and, in the end, justice was done.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Martyn; Patterson (Dyer, 54) Shaw, Coleman, Gordon; Southgate, Newman, Bowry, Ndah (Launders, 81); Armstrong, Salako. Substitute not used: Wilmot (gk).

Lincoln City (4-4-2): Leaning; Schofield, Brown, Greenall, Platnauer; West, Onwere, Hebberd, Johnson; Puttnam (Daley, 48), Bannister. Substitutes not used: Smith, Book (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).