Ten minutes before the end of Saturday's Championship match at Selhurst Park Neil Warnock, the Crystal Palace manager, shouted across to his opposite number: "Great game, Tony, isn't it?" West Bromwich Albion's Tony Mowbray raised his eyebrows and replied: "Do you think so?"
Mowbray expanded after the game. "It was very poor fare for everybody and I didn't enjoy it," he said. "Palace are fighting for their lives at the moment. They're scrapping for every point they can get and they make the game as scrappy as they can. They compete for every ball, though I've no qualms about their approach."
Warnock, in contrast, called it "my sort of game". Palace, unbeaten in six matches, competed ferociously and could easily have beaten opponents who would have gone top if they had won. Albion, who had scored nine goals in winning their previous three away games, were rarely given the time or space to show their class.
"Three weeks ago we would have lost that fixture, but we're actually quite disappointed not to have won it," Warnock said. "We would have stood off them a bit too much, given them the ball and let them do what they want. I don't like my teams to do that.
"That was more how I like my teams to play and that's the first time I've seen us play like that at home. You need that intensity, passion and commitment to succeed at every level. We only drew today, but there wasn't one minute in the game when we didn't want to go out and win it. That's the difference."
Central to Palace's success were the midfielders Shaun Derry and Ben Watson. Derry, on loan from Leeds, commanded the territory in front of his back four, enabling Watson to concentrate on building attacks. Watson's passing ability and vision have never been in doubt, but under Warnock's guidance he has added drive and passion to his game. "I had a chat with him two weeks ago and since then he's been a revelation, in training and in games," Warnock said.
Both goals were the result of defensive slips. Mark Hudson diverted Jonathan Greening's cross into his own net, while Clinton Morrison equalised from eight yards when left unmarked after a well-flighted Watson free kick.
Injuries deprived Albion of their regular strikers, Kevin Phillips and Ishmael Miller, who have scored 17 goals between them this season, though Roman Bednar and Filipe Teixeira threatened to take Palace apart in the early stages. Bednar, on loan from Hearts, hit the bar after a lovely through ball from Teixeira, who then wasted a fine opportunity when missing the target after being set up by Chris Brunt.
As Watson and Derry started to take command, Palace cut the supply line to the Albion attack and dominated much of the second half.
Mowbray thought his team looked flat after playing three matches in seven days, but Warnock is enjoying what he sees. "I like entertainment," he said. "I don't think you can take your eyes off our games at the moment because there's always something likely to happen."
Goals: Hudson og (8) 0-1; Morrison (21) 1-1.
Crystal Palace (4-3-2-1): Speroni; Lawrence, Fonte, Hudson, Hill; Soares, Derry, Watson; Morrison (Dickov, 47), Songo'o (Martin, 79); Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Freedman, Kennedy, Butterfield.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kiely; Hoefkens, Barnett, Cesar, Robinson; Gera, Greening, Koren (MacDonald, 63), Brunt (Beattie, 45); Bednar, Filipe Teixeira. Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Chaplow, Pele.
Referee: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).
Bookings: Crystal Palace Hill West Bromwich Albion Cesar.
Man of the match: Watson.
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