Black sees red to deplete Palace

Millwall 1 Crystal Palace 1
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The Independent Football

Crystal Palace's new habit of finishing matches with fewer players than they started with proved expensive at The Den yesterday. But for a time it seemed that Tommy Black's dismissal would provide the incentive to sustain them at the top of the first division. In the end, though, Millwall denied them in added time.

Crystal Palace's new habit of finishing matches with fewer players than they started with proved expensive at The Den yesterday. But for a time it seemed that Tommy Black's dismissal would provide the incentive to sustain them at the top of the first division. In the end, though, Millwall denied them in added time.

It never takes much provocation to turn South London's derby matches into crusty affairs, and yesterday there was the added edge of Palace defending their surprising early-season front-running form and Millwall protecting an unbeaten opening run of four games. Neither, though, had made much of their mid-week appearances, with Palace losing at home to Sheffield United and Millwall only drawing at Stoke.

With half-a-dozen senior players injured or suspended, Palace could take some encouragement from their quota of early possession out of which, nevertheless, they achieved nothing of real consequence except to frustrate Millwall.

For 20 minutes Millwall had trouble in prising midfield control away from Palace. Dennis Wise inspired some pressure, but chances came and were squandered ever more frequently.

A free kick from Wise floated over the goal area invitingly but without a Millwall intervention. He also drifted an in-swinging corner that Tim Cahill headed firmly into a gap, filled by Shaun Derry with a last-second block, and Cahill also failed to stretch far enough when Tony Craig squared the ball in front of him. In spite of those awkward moments, Palace were confidently served at the back by Darren Powell, whose interceptions, both on the ground and in the air, were impressive.

Palace's inability to send out their strongest team told in their failure to risk taking strength out of midfield to help support their attack. Their scoring opportunities in the first half were virtually non existent, but at least they reached that point unscathed.

Paul Ifill, wide on the right of Millwall's midfield, had done little of note bar a brief scuffle with Jamie Smith, but when, early in the second half, he began to use his pace, the Palace defence looked less composed. Added to that, on the hour they found themselves reduced to 10 men.

Millwall's Kevin Muscat had blocked Black some distance out, but Black was annoyed enough to kick out at him, which, considering he had already been cautioned, was unwise. Black becomes the fifth Palace player sent off this season.

Six minutes later Palace's reduced team took the lead after Wise gave away a free kick just outside the area. Ben Watson stepped up and curled the kick beautifully beyond Tony Warner.

Much of the responsibility for retaining Palace's advantage fell to their goalkeeper, Cedric Berthalin, and the admirable Powell. In one barrage of attacks, Berthalin stood stout against several close-range shots and headers. He managed to block a drive from two yards by Neil Harris but was fortunate to see the substitute Bob Peeters fail to convert what was Millwall's clearest chance and for the final 15 minutes they continued to storm the Palace goal. It was injury time when a 40-yard ball from Ifill was neatly headed in by Peeters.

Millwall 1
Peeters 90

Crystal Palace 1
Watson 67

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 14,425

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