Football: Lights go out as Lampard draws level

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The Independent Online
West Ham United 2 Crystal Palace 2

match abandoned after 65min

It was a goal to light up any match, but Frank Lampard's 65th-minute strike for West Ham had the opposite effect last night. Twelve seconds after his 20-yard drive appeared to have completed a stirring fightback, the celebrating Hammer was left dancing in the dark as the floodlights failed.

After 30 minutes attempting to restore power, during which the crowd were serenaded with "Blinded by the Light" and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes", the referee, David Elleray, was forced to abandon the match.

"At least it was all square when the lights went out," Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, said. Harry Redknapp, his West Ham counterpart, said: "They had taken us to the cleaners in the first half, but we showed a lot of character and we looked good to go on and win it."

It was the second Premiership abandonment of the season after Derby's match with Wimbledon was called off in August with Derby leading 2-1. This time the score was level which meant neither side felt unduly aggrieved but one wonders what Sky TV, who were televising the game live, thought about it. Since they give every Premiership club pounds 7m-plus each season, they might at least expect the lights to work.

They did have 65 minutes of excellent football, however. Palace, boasting with Leeds the best away record in the Premiership, dominated the first half, scoring through Neil Shipperley after 18 and 45 minutes. Both goals were well-taken opportunist strikes, but will be scrubbed from the record.

The first, which followed Simon Rodger's interception of Craig Forrest's clearance, set West Ham a problem. Palace, compact at the back and quick on the break, are not a team to go behind to at home. So it proved. Palace pulled men back and forced West Ham to pass in front of them. Forrest had already saved brilliantly from a Shipperley header when the striker took a pass from Rodger, turned Rio Ferdinand and shot inside the far post.

Redknapp admitted he would have settled for the lights going out at half- time. But after he brought on Andy Impey and Samassi Abou, the new pounds 250,000 signing from Cannes, West Ham were transformed. John Hartson headed in David Unsworth's cross after 52 minutes, then Lampard, running on to Abou's pass, drifted by two players to level. It did not quite bring the house down, but it did appear to blow a fuse.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Forrest; Potts (Impey, h-t), Pearce, Ferdinand, Unsworth; Lampard, Lomas, Moncur, Berkovitch; Hartson, Dowie (Abou, h- t). Substitutes not used: Bishop, Rowland, Sealey (gk).

Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Miller; Smith, Linighan, Edworthy, Hreidarsson, Gordon; Lombardo, Roberts, Rodger; Dyer (Ndah, 62), Shipperley. Substitutes not used: Veart, Nash, Emblen, Zohar.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Harry Redknapp last night commented on John Hartson's arrest last Thursday after an evening spent drinking with friends. He said: "I only heard about John's arrest an hour before the game and I didn't want to mention it then. So much has happened since then tonight I haven't had the chance to speak to him about it."

The striker was given a formal warning for drunkenness.

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