Who needs more than nine men when one of them is Dougie Freedman? Crystal Palace certainly do not on the evidence of yesterday's 3-2 victory at Burnley.
The Scot earned the penalty from which Palace went ahead in the third minute, but the south London side found themselves level and down to 10 men only seven minutes later after Wayne Routledge fouled Luke Chadwick and was shown the red card. The referee first gave a penalty but then awarded a free-kick outside the area. No matter, Robbie Blake scored from it and Lee Roche soon put Burnley ahead.
Palace's manager, Steve Kember, made a tactical switch to use his 10 men more effectively and it paid off. Freedman weaved his way through the Burnley back line and rounded the goalkeeper to equalise and midway through the second half, he headed home after Andrew Johnson's shot had been parried. A minute later Shaun Derry was sent off for a foul, but Palace's nine held on.
A new-look Stoke City side including seven players making full debuts gave Derby County fans that same old feeling at Pride Park, where goals from Gifton Noel-Williams, Chris Greenacre and Lewis Neal earned the Potters a 3-0 win. Goodness knows what the score might have been had Derby's new manager, George Burley, not started with a defensive 5-4-1 formation.
Sheffield United's meeting with Gillingham ended goalless, their midfielder Michael Tonge coming close to breaking the deadlock for last season's play-off finalists, but Gills' keeper, Jason Brown, was equal to his 30-yard free-kick.
Bradford City finally claimed the goals their hard work deserved to snatch a point in a 2-2 draw at home to Norwich City. With six minutes remaining it appeared that a Mark Rivers penalty and a Clint Easton goal either side of half-time would give Norwich the points, even though Bradford had peppered the visitors' woodwork, including from the penalty spot. But Ben Muirhead beat two men to score with his left foot after 84 minutes and Michael Branch forced in the equaliser at the death.
Another poverty-stricken side, Wimbledon, came from a goal down to spoil Crewe Alexandra's return to the First Division. Alex Tapp scored a superb second for the Dons with a long range left-foot drive in a 3-1 home win, but there was a crowd of only 1,145 at Selhurst Park to see it.
There were mixed fortunes for the poorest clubs in the Second Division. While Luton beat Rushden and Diamonds, Messrs Matthews (twice), Peacock (twice) and Miller - all of them Lees - scored as Bristol City made Notts County look like dregs in a 5-0 rout.
The reshaping of promoted Hartlepool United by their new manager, Neale Cooper, paid dividends as they came from 3-1 down to win 4-3 at Peterborough United, with three of their goals coming from new signings Gavin Strachan, Paul Robinson and Michael Nelson, and the other from a player plucked from the reserves, Matty Robson.
Yeovil announced their arrival in the Football League after 108 years with a 3-1 win at Rochdale, where Keven Gall scored twice to take his tally to 15 in 13 games. Doncaster won by the same score on their return at Leyton Orient, Leo Fortune-West netting two.
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