Crystal Palace are a team in need of a sat nav. They have badly lost their route to goal and it is costing them momentum at a time when they hoped to be exerting pressure on the Championship leaders. On Wednesday they go to Old Trafford for a Carling Cup quarter-final and there seems little likelihood it will provide the solution to their scoring dilemma.
As an intuitive striker, Dougie Freedman was always well acquainted with the space between the posts but he is in charge of a group of players who have not scored in five matches, a barren 485 minutes in League terms. Teams enduring this kind of malaise can never afford to play fast and loose with gift horses and to the horror of their supporters Palace even managed to miss from the penalty spot with 17 minutes remaining.
It was that sort of afternoon; a poor advert for Championship football with creativity as rare as goodwill between these neighbours. Millwall were hardly any more enterprising but at least both teams could say they had stopped the rot of two successive defeats.
For a spark to pierce the gloom we turned to the flanks where Wilfried Zaha for the home side and Liam Feeney for Millwall, particularly in the first half, offered pace and invention and the promise of something significant to come.
Down the years Manchester United have been blessed with a succession of wingers possessing the ability and speed to make use of the green spaces behind their full-back and they will appreciate Zaha's precocious gifts if he is in this same mood of free-flowing ambition.
Only just turned 19, the Palace winger had the means to inflict discomfort on Nathan Baker, one of two loanees from Aston Villa making their debut for a visiting team who have had much the better of this South London squabble in recent years. When he got away from the full-back in a tight skirmish near the byline in the 70th minute it seemed that his legs were then taken from him by Baker's lunge but no penalty was given.
Palace were furious but the award was only delayed three minutes – referee David Webb then ruling that Paul Robinson had held back his fellow captain Paddy McCarthy as they contested a corner. Glenn Murray stepped up with the opportunity to give his team a first win over the enemy since December 2002 but sent his effort well wide.
Freedman later called the famine a "small rut" and is convinced they will come out of it "sooner rather than later". Sooner means Manchester United rather than Derby on Friday – he might well be proved wrong on that count.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Gardner, Moxey; Zaha, Jedinak, Garvan, Scannell; Martin (Ambrose, 73), Murray (Easter, 82).
Millwall (4-4-2): Mildenhall; Smith, Robinson, Lowry, Baker; Feeney, Abdou, Trotter, Barron (Howard, 83); Simpson, Marquis (Henry, 61).
Referee David Webb.
Man of the match Zaha (Crystal Palace).
Match rating 5/10.Reuse content