Millwall in reverse

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The Independent Online
PAUL NEWMAN

Millwall 1 Crystal Palace 4

Oh the joys of a south London derby: seven bookings, including two and a red card for Millwall's Jason Van Blerk, two penalties, players squaring up to one another, a referee struggling to maintain control, fans invading the pitch and sections of the crowd spending most of the match snarling at one another.

In an atmosphere of such malevolence it was surprising that there was any time for decent football at the New Den on Saturday. Most of what there was came from Crystal Palace, who initially rode their luck but ended the match completely on top.

Jimmy Nicholl has presided over seven defeats in nine games since taking charge of Millwall, who were a shambles by the end. They look an unhappy team, although clearly not without talent. Indeed, the outcome might have been very different had Nigel Martyn not saved Alex Rae's first-half penalty.

Palace had a further escape when Lucas Neill hit a post in the first minute of the second half, but once David Hopkin had put Dave Bassett's team in front there was no looking back. By the end Palace were rampant, with George Ndah slicing through the home defence at will.

How fortunes have changed since Millwall won the reverse First Division fixture in October. Three wins in 23 League games have seen Millwall drop from second to 17th, while Palace have climbed from 20th to third on the back of a run which has seen them lose just once in 20 matches.

Goals: Hopkin (59) 0-1; Brown (77) 0-2; Rae (pen, 79) 1-2; Ndah (86) 1-3; Ndah (88) 1-4.

Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Lavin, Stevens, Van Blerk, Thatcher; Gordon, Rae, Neill (Fuchs, 70), Weir; Dolby (Webber, 72), Malkin. Substitute not used: Connor.

Crystal Palace (5-2-3): Martyn; Brown, Edworthy, Roberts, Davies, Vincent; Pitcher, Houghton; Hopkin, Veart, Ndah. Substitutes not used: Rodger, Dyer, Evans (gk).

Referee: J Rushton (Stoke-on-Trent).

Sending-off: Millwall: Van Blerk. Bookings: Millwall: Webber, Gordon. Crystal Palace: Vincent, Ndah, Roberts

Man of the match: Ndah.

Attendance: 13,214.

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