Blackpool 1, Crystal Palace 1: Warnock falls on feet after Palace raise the tempo

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The Independent Football

Neil Warnock's last taste of management came back in May when Sheffield United were beaten by Wigan and relegated from the Premier League.

On Saturday, he was back in his tracksuit in charge of Crystal Palace, though the stakes were not quite as high as on that tension-filled spring afternoon.

Bloomfield Road is not one of the Championship's more glamorous locations and the crowd of 9,037 hardly compared with those Warnock's United team were playing in front of earlier as recently as six months ago.

A circumspect return to the dug-out for the 58-year-old, then, who has mellowed over his two decades in management? Not a bit of it. From the first whistle, Warnock kicked every ball and contested virtually every decision. On one occasion, he even ended up flat on the floor, tripping over as he retreated from a trademark touchline rant. The Blackpool fans behind him who spent much of the afternoon aiming abuse in his direction loved it – and so did Warnock.

At the end of the match, having collected a deserved 1-1 draw, he marched across the pitch to acknowledge the sizeable Palace support with a broad smile on his face.

"It was good to be back – I really enjoyed it," he said. "I think I can do something with any team, be it Sunday League or in the Premier. This is a new challenge and the players responded well and all tried their hardest."

No-one more so than James Scowcroft, who looked exhausted at the final whistle. "We couldn't have given any more," he said. "He wants us to play at a higher tempo and that's what we needed to do. The manager has got an aura. He's got a reputation and every team he has managed has always given the opposition a good game. That enthusiasm is already rubbing off on us."

Scowcroft played a significant part in the opening goal, heading Danny Butterfield's cross back across goal for Tom Soares. Then David Fox reacted quickest to Stephen Crainey's blocked free kick to bring Blackpool level. Late on, Soares was shown a straight red card for stamping.

"We would have won the game if we could have defended a set piece," muttered Warnock, departing momentarily from sweetness-and-light mode.

So Blackpool and Palace remain separated by two points, but where the latter have responded by sacking Peter Taylor, the former are celebrating a run of only two defeats in 11 games.

Consolidation is the Seasiders' unashamed aim but Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman, has loftier ambitions. He is hoping that his sixth managerial appointment in seven years in charge at Selhurst Park will be the one to deliver long-term Premier League football. That is a challenge to test even Warnock.

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