Bristol City 1 Crystal Palace 1: Warnock left to fume as McCombe's late equaliser denies Palace

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The Independent Football

Bristol City would have gone top of the Championship with victory at Ashton Gate last night, but it took a goal nearly five minutes into injury time to secure the draw that leaves Gary Johnson's team one point behind Stoke City and Watford. For more than half an hour a spectacular first senior goal by the 17-year-old Lee Hills looked likely to reignite Crystal Palace's promotion chances, but City's never-say-die attitude finally brought its reward.

Neil Warnock was left fuming by the referee Richard Beeby's decision to let the game continue for so long, having originally signalled four minutes of added time. The Palace manager said the referee had refused to see him after the match. "In the first half he gave one minute of added time and blew up after exactly one minute when we were attacking outside their box," Warnock said. "In the second half he gave four minutes and they scored after four minutes and 55 seconds. I think it was totally out of order."

Warnock had reacted to a run of four matches which produced just one point and one goal by dropping his two leading scorers, Clinton Morrison and James Scowcroft. He selected a team with spoiling tactics in mind and Palace's harrying disrupted the flow.

The first half was a non-event, but Palace came out with a much more positive approach after the break and were rewarded with a fine goal after an hour. Ben Watson set up Hills, who struck a beautiful left-foot volley into the corner of the net from 15 yards.

City made a spirited response and should have equalised four minutes later, but Ivan Sproule's shot from eight yards was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Julian Speroni. Three minutes from time the Palace goalkeeper made a superb double save from Bradley Orr's penalty, awarded for a foul by Danny Butterfield on Darren Byfield that Warnock described as "one of the softest I've ever seen".

By now City had given up their passing style in favour of a direct approach and with the last meaningful action of the match Jamie McCombe headed home Lee Johnson's corner. Johnson's father, the City manager, praised his team's resilience. "They didn't let their heads drop," he said.

Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Basso; Orr, McCombe, Fontaine (Vasko, 84), McAllister; Sproule (Byfield, 68), Johnson, Elliott, McIndoe; Carle (Trundle, 68); Adebola. Substitutes not used: Weale (gk), Skuse.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Butterfield, Lawrence, Hudson, Hill; Soares (Scannell, 68), Watson, Derry (Fonte, 85), Fletcher, Hills; Kuqi (Scowcroft, 78). Substitutes not used: Morrison, Ifill.

Referee: R J Beeby (Northamptonshire).