Crystal Palace 2 Ipswich Town 2: Fuller's level best followed by folly

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The Independent Football

This was a match between the brightening hopes of Palace and the fading optimism of Ipswich. The respective fans had concluded that the games which immediately preceded yesterday's were significant crossroads. Ipswich's 3-1 defeat at Preston had left them accepting that the play-off places were all but unreachable but Palace's 3-1 win at Stoke much improved the possibility of a return to Premiership football. A tense, mistake-strewn draw here, however, did not help Palace's cause.

The manner in which Ipswich conceded a goal as early as the 10th minute yesterday suggested that they were heading for another problematic day. The rash tackle from behind by Fabian Wilnis unnecessarily gave away a free-kick that was slipped to Jobi McAnuff, whose lob was gently headed over the line by the Finn Aki Riihilahti.

If the Ipswich defence had looked insecure at that point, they did little to make amends as Palace continued to prise them apart, with McAnuff and Andy Johnson especially quick to spot the gaps. Nevertheless, Ipswich got lucky after half an hour when Ricardo Fuller slammed a shot that Palace's goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly thought he had it covered, but it hit Tom Soares andcaught Kiraly going the wrong way before the ball crossed the line.

Ipswich reverted to defensive carelessness . Shortly after half-time they failed to see the danger in allowing Clinton Morrison space only three yards off their goal-line. A long free-kick by Ben Watson gave them ample time to put Morrison under pressure but they failed and he headed in almost unattended.

Palace then emulated Ipswich in defensive wastefulness. A long centre was not seen to constitute any danger and Fuller headed in the equaliser from his unmarked place at the near post.

Fuller, on loan from Southampton, spoiled his moment of glory, first by forcing the referee to give him a yellow card for a shot at goal long after he had been waved offside, and a few minutes later by getting a straight red for making an abusive gesture to the linesman.

Ipswich's manager, Joe Royle, was livid because his team had just begun to gain the upper hand and 12 minutes were left in which they might have won. "We've had six sendings-off but we are not a dirty side. It's cost us 10 points this season and we are way down with injuries," he said.