Hart confident after Palace fall short of safety

Crystal Palace 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

If you are a socialist Crystal Palace supporter you may want to leave the country next week. David Cameron could be Prime Minister on 7 May and Palace will be playing in the third tier of English football next season if they lose away to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.

Paul Hart's team would have been assured of their place in the Championship next season if they had beaten West Bromwich Albion last night, but a point means that their fate will be decided in a nail-biting clash at Hillsborough on the final day of the Championship season.

Whoever loses will be playing in League One next season, while a draw will keep Palace up and send Wednesday down. Relegation would hit Palace especially hard because they would be safe in 13th place if they had not been deducted 10 points for entering administration in January.

"We've got a good chance of staying up," Hart, the Palace manager, said. "We're in a better position than Sheffield Wednesday and we have to make it count. We can't play for a draw, we have to go there for the win."

A Steven Reid own-goal in the 17th minute gave Palace the perfect start but West Brom equalised four minutes later thanks to Gabriel Tamas's near-post header. Roberto Di Matteo's side could have scored five times before the break and only a series of outstanding saves by Julian Speroni kept Palace in the game. Roman Bednar could have scored a hat-trick, but the closest the Czech striker came to scoring was when his first-half header crashed against the bar.

Palace improved after the break and knowing that a point was no use, Hart sent on Alan Lee and Stern John to beef up his attack. Palace huffed and puffed, but created little and their task was made even more difficult in the 82nd minute when Neil Danns was shown a straight red card by referee Dean Whitestone for headbutting Graham Dorrans.

Danns will miss Sunday's crucial game, yet Hart refused to blame the midfielder for reacting to having his hair pulled by Dorrans. "Danns is an extremely good player and he would be missed from any side," Hart said. "I don't want to comment on the incident until I've seen a replay."

Relegation would be disastrous for a club who are in administration and it remains to be seen whether Hart and players such as Darren Ambrose are still at the club next season regardless of the result on Sunday.

Ambrose came agonisingly close to an injury-time winner last night. Tamas's clearance off the line means that Palace fans will have to suffer until Sunday. "Another performance like this and we will be fine," Hart said.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Speroni; Butterfield, McCarthy, Lawrence (N'Diaye, 90), Hill; Ambrose, Danns, Derry, Ertl (John, 77), Scannell (Lee, 68); Andrew. Substitutes not used Mann (gk), Clyne, Carle, Davis.

West Bromwich Albion (4-5-1): Carson; Reid, Tamas, Olsson (Meite, 77), Cech; Koren (Barnes, 71), Cox, Mulumbu, Dorrans ( Morrison, 85), Brunt; Bednar. Substitutes not used Kiely (gk), Mattock, Wood, Mantom.

Referee D Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

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