Crystal Palace 2 Leeds United 2 match report: Ian Holloway blasts Luke Varney and ref as Leeds pinch point
The sight of Ian Holloway being ushered off the pitch by stewards at the final whistle, while counterpart Neil Warnock dragged Leeds' captain Lee Peltier away from the Crystal Palace manager, stressed the growing tension of the Championship race.
Only two of the top 10 won yesterday, underlining the division's competitiveness, but both these teams felt they should have taken the three points. Palace, having led through Glenn Murray on 27 minutes, should have sewn it up. Steve Morison then struck twice in 13 second-half minutes to transform the game, but Leeds have a habit of conceding late goals and Murray levelled with six minutes left.
Salvaging a point did nothing to calm Holloway, who confronted referee Dean Whitestone at the final whistle, then Luke Varney. Peltier entered the fray to defend his team-mate, further infuriating the Palace manager, and the pair argued before being separated.
"We should have been one-nil up playing nine men," said Holloway afterwards. "It is a blatant yellow card when Luke Varney fouls Jon Williams from behind but the referee hasn't the gumption to give it. Two minutes later Varney dives and gets a yellow but he should have been off.
"Then Wilf [Zaha] is through on goal and he is scythed down. If that's not a goalscoring opportunity what is? But he gives a yellow. I don't know how the ref did not see that. We missed too many chances and should have killed the game off, but I'm relying on the ref being brave enough to give out yellow cards. He was so lenient it was frightening.
"I had a set-to with Luke because he [dived] to try and win a penalty and he was laughing about it. He used to play for me so I have every right to talk to him."
Warnock had a different opinion. "I didn't see Olly complaining in the first half when they got some iffy decisions. I don't condone what Luke did in the second half but we should have had a penalty when he was fouled in the first. You know how well you have played when Olly goes off like that. He is just frustrated. They are used to winning here."
Favourable results elsewhere meant Palace would have gone into the automatic promotion places had they won, but they are still well-placed in third, a point behind Watford. Leeds, despite a fine run of form, remain 10th, six points off the play-offs, but they are playing with belief and with a gentle run-in could yet have a say in the end-of-season showdown.
While Leeds were unchanged, Holloway made a trio of alterations to his line-up, among them resting 39-year-old Kevin Phillips, who scored a treble against Hull. The early exchanges were even but Palace got on top. Zaha gave Leeds' left-back Stephen Warnock a torrid time delivering dangerous crosses and Paddy Kenny twice had to deny Murray at close range.
The pressure told on the half-hour as Williams curled in a cross and Murray headed in unchallenged at the back post with Peltier and Stephen Warnock AWOL. Jonathan Parr might have doubled the lead but was denied by Kenny's sharp save, after which Leeds regrouped. Julian Speroni, the only member of Palace's starting XI to play here under Warnock, needed to save from Paul Green with Mile Jedinak blocking Varney's follow-up.
After the break Zaha missed a fine chance before Leeds rocked Palace just before the hour. Varney's first touch after his caution for diving was a cross that Morison drilled past Speroni. Eleven minutes later Kenny's long ball eluded the Palace defence and the January signing struck again. McCormack could then have won the game, but shot wide, allowing Palace to level when Murray sneaked behind Stephen Warnock to score his 30th goal of an incredibly prolific campaign.
Crystal Palace (4-3-2-1): Speroni; Dikgacoi, Ramage, Delaney, Parr; Jedinak, Zaha, Williams (Wilbraham, 87); Dobbie (Moritz, 82), Bolasie (Phillips, 74); Murray.
Leeds United (4-3-2-1): Kenny; Byram, Lees, Peltier, Warnock; Green, Norris (Hall, 88), Tonge; McCormack (Austin, 88), Morison (Habibou, 90); Varney.
Referee Dean Whitestone.
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