Crystal Palace 2 Port Vale 2
On a night when two of their main First Division rivals, Charlton and Derby County, lost, Crystal Palace missed the chance to move into the second automatic promotion place behind Sunderland.
Palace, with two goals from Dougie Freedman, were unable to defend their lead against a Port Vale team who fought back with second-half efforts from Jon McCarthy and Martin Foyle, maintaining their own remarkable surge from near the bottom of the table to a possible place in the play-offs.
Ray Houghton's passing and David Hopkin's running caused problems down the right but Port Vale were opened up in the 25th minute by error rather than excellence. Marc Edworthy mis- hit his pass forward, both Neil Aspin and Paul Musselwhite ambled over but neither took charge, and the ball rolled on to Dougie Freedman who stroked it home.
But Port Vale created chances, too, and Nigel Martyn had to stretch to reach a looping header from Andy Hill and Foyle came close with a dipping shot.
Yet, with five minutes to the break, Palace showed that right is might yet again. Houghton started the move 30 yards out, drifted wide to deliver a sweet cross and Freedman was on hand to head home his second. Tony Naylor almost gave Port Vale a sweetener for their half-time tea but Martyn was equal to his long-range shot.
Port Vale definitely got something at half-time, though. Six minutes after the restart McCarthy played a quick one-two with Foyle before drilling home from the edge of the penalty area.
Houghton then set about restoring the margin, creating chances first for Kenny Brown and then George Ndah, who was denied by a brave tackle from Gareth Griffiths that resulted in the Port Vale defender limping off. But the game was shifting towards the visitors. With 74 minutes played, Steve Guppy's cross picked out Foyle and he headed strongly past Martyn.
Palace tried hard to up the tempo in the closing minutes but it was Port Vale, fast and direct in the last third, who looked more likely to find a winner. "If we play as well in our remaining six games as we've done tonight, I'll be more than happy" Dave Bassett, the Crystal Palace manager, said. "We'll win more than we lose."
Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Martyn; Hopkin, Edworthy, Roberts, Davies, Brown; Veart, Houghton, Pitcher (Rodger, 79); Freedman (Dyer, 77), Ndah. Substitute not used: Evans.
Port Vale (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Hill, Griffiths (Talbot, 61), Aspin, Stokes; McCarthy, Bogie, Porter, Guppy; Foyle, Naylor (Mills, 88). Substitute not used: Walker.
Referee: A Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield).
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