On the evidence of the season so far, this had the promise of the tense, closely fought affair it became. Most of Preston's points had come from away games, while Palace had gained the majority of theirs on home turf. But when Palace recently lost the match-winning potential of Andy Johnson, whose knee injury is likely to keep him out for two more weeks, they began to feel vulnerable, even at Selhurst.
It was easy to see why Preston had damaged a few home reputations when they immediately committed themselves to full-blooded attack. Palace responded, launching attacks off the dexterity and speed of Jobi McAnuff, whose ball skills are a delight whether he plays on the left or right.
McAnuff set up an early move that saw Clinton Morrison curl his shot wide but also announced his intent. Preston countered but tended to get trapped offside by a Palace defence well marshalled by new captain Darren Ward. He soon felt confident enough to venture upfield where his height threatened Preston's defence.
Tough Preston tackling gave them the edge, though, and interrupted Palace's flow. They went forward in numbers and profited when, two minutes before half-time, they sent a posse into the Palace penalty area after winning a corner that Paul McKenna floated to the far post. Chris Lucketti rose above the defence and headed back under the crossbar. Although Palace protested that Ben Watson had cleared before the ball crossed the line, they were wrong. It was a poor goal to concede, with Palace's goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly, easily submerged in the goalmouth pressure.
Once Dougie Freedman came on Palace became more positive and he was denied a goal by an outstanding save from Carlo Nash, who clipped the ball over the bar.
A competitive game was threatened with turmoil when the referee, Steve Tanner, issued a straight red card to Preston's Chris Sedgwick for shirt pulling. That was harsh, but when Claude Davis put a foot so high he met Freedman in the chest, another red was more justifiable. Both incidents brought prolonged Preston protests. Billy Davis, their manager, claimed the red cards were wrong. "I hope the referee is big enough to reconsider," he said. "I've asked him to look at the video."
The nine Preston men nearly all became defenders. Palace raked them with attacks. Nash played the hero, catching shots and repelling them with his fists. But in the last minute of added time, he was beaten when Ward headed firmly into the goal area and Morrison deflected in.Reuse content