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Town v Palace

By: John Wilkinson
Date: 03/12/2000

Just when I thought the club was going to do nothing to recognise John McDermott's feat in breaking the Club's appearance record - they did it - without much fanfare - just before the kickoff.

Keith Jobling was there to make the award as the teams lined up to honour McDermott who - eventually - came out to accept it and played as captain for the match (Groves was suspended after being sent off at Sheffield United). The lineup was unfamiliar to say the least. Coyne in goal, McDermott, Willems, Handyside and Fostervold at the back. Three in midfield - Burnett, Coldicott and Campbell with Donovan playing behind the front two - Neilson and Allen. Half of the team were carrying injuries and it showed early on when a fully fit Allen would surely have scored when he was alone on a half chance in the box, but fluffed it. After a fairly even few minutes, I thought Town dominated the first half with Donovan coming close a number of times. The revelation for me was Burnett, playing his first home game for a long time and looking like his old self. Dominating midfield with some excellent passing, I thought he was by head and shoulders the player of the first half. However, Donovan wasn't far behind and came close to scoring several times, plus he created some excellent opportunities for others. The weakness, I thought, was the formation. I cannot see why, with the players available, LL didn't play a more orthodox 4-4-2. The way in which we played meant we lacked width and I'm afraid that Coldicott, whatever his other merits, is no winger and with Donovan locked into the centre, too many balls out to the right were picked up either by (a) no-one or (b) Coldicott. Nielsen and Allen disappointed, but were clearly ill or half fit. Despite this, we played with spirit and created a few chances - the best of which was when Donovan turned a defender in the box, took a couple of steps and blasted a shot that the keeper just tipped over. It should have been a goal and the whole match may well have changed had it gone in. The Palace goal - a simple header from a fairly orthodox cross - was against the run of play and instilled confidence in Palace, who are a fairly ordinary side. The second half was different - and a lot bloody colder when the sun went in (winter's here!). Town were poor for most of the second half and had to make enforced changes. Nielsen was clearly ill or injured and Allen was no better, so Smith and Jeffrey came on. So far as I could see, Donovan and Jeffrey went up front and Smith slotted into midfield. Town were very lucky not to go two down when Palace hit the bar, but they eventually did so after an appalling error by Handyside (who should have cleared the area, but missed it) meant that the Palace forward had a clear run on goal and he scored easily. A lot of people then left which will teach them a lesson for the future. Jeffrey looked a class act when he was put through one-on-one with the goalkeeper before he clipped the ball over his advancing body and into the net. Then, a free kick just outside the box was pounded by Willems (I think) and although the goalkeeper got down to it, Donovan got the rebound and it was 2-2. Make no mistake, we were lucky, on our second half display, to get the draw. We needed to beat Palace but, in the end, there was considerable relief - not least from me - that we got something. Indeed, if Burnett had been on target in the last few seconds his volley might even have won it. Another nice touch was our new Chinese centre-half being introduced to the crowd at half time by Ron Cockerill and Keith Jobling. I'm sure he'll be very good but it's far from clear what LL has got against Matt Bloomer. Given all the comings and goings, the foreign legion and LL's continuous local (if banal) radio exposure, the crowds (5800) are no bigger than when AB was here. Something to think about?

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