Dowie to turn from Gray to Black

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The Independent Online

At the end of a gruelling season, perhaps the biggest surprise about today's First Division play-off final is that both sides go into the game without any injury problems.

At the end of a gruelling season, perhaps the biggest surprise about today's First Division play-off final is that both sides go into the game without any injury problems.

The only absentee from either of the first-choice line-ups will be Crystal Palace's Julian Gray, who is suspended after being sent off during the semi-final second leg against Sunderland. The former Arsenal player may well have made his last appearance for the club, whether Palace are promoted or not. Birmingham City emerged yesterday as the front-runners among a number of clubs interested in signing the skilful winger.

Gray's place is likely to go to another former Arsenal player, Tommy Black, who has spent most of this season on the substitutes' bench. With Danny Granville expected to be fit after a calf injury, Black's promotion is likely to be the only change to Iain Dowie's line-up, although Darren Powell's recent return to fitness could put Mikele Leigertwood's place under threat.

West Ham are expected to be unchanged. Rufus Brevett, who has returned to fitness after nine months out with a foot injury, and Don Hutchison, who has recovered from a calf injury, are expected to have to settle for places on the bench.

Both teams will have potential match-winners waiting in the wings. Dougie Freedman, Palace's second leading scorer behind Andrew Johnson, has scored some vital goals this season, while Alan Pardew, the West Ham manager, can turn to Hutchison and Brian Deane.

Crystal Palace (probable): Vaesen; Butterfield, Leigertwood, Popovic, Granville; Routledge, Hughes, Riihilahti, Black; Johnson, Shipperley. Substitutes: Berthelin (gk), Powell, Freedman, Borrowdale, Derry.

West Ham United (probable): Bywater; Repka, Dailly, Melville, Mullins; Etherington, Carrick, Lomas, Zamora; Harewood, Connolly. Substitutes: Srnicek (gk), Brevett, Reo-Coker, McAnuff, Hutchison Deane.

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