Crystal Palace went into the final game of the season with little to play for. There were some mini-baubles, in preventing Cardiff reaching the play-offs and finishing above local rivals Millwall, on offer, but in reality this was small fry compared to what looked to be on offer at the start of the calender year.
The Eagles started the game with 3 left backs and the reserve keeper nestling around the skipper Paddy McCarthy in the back five, with Freedman having to ring the changes to cover for injuries. They also has a very inexperienced substitutes bench, averaging 18.2 years apparently.
With the rain lashing down on Selhurst, Cardiff probably felt more at home than Palace, but despite this being a big game for them as they looked to seal a place in the playoffs they did not bring many supporters at all. They did not start brightly either, with Palace making the most of the early running.
That said, Cardiff had the better of the early chances, Lewis Price had to react quickly after a Cardiff shot squirted off the mud causing him to fumble the ball to Bluebirds striker Kenny Miller who slammed the ball toward the bottom corner. Price reacted superbly, keeping a strong arm to force the ball around the post.
But it was the home side that took the lead, looking to exact revenge for the Carling Cup Semi Final defeat earlier in the season. In fact it was two of the cup heroes who combined for the goal. Darren Ambrose struck an exquisite bending pass from deep on the right hand side of midfield, dissecting the backtracking Cardiff defence, and Wilfried Zaha raced onto the ball to knocked it passed the stranded Marshall for 1-0. Zaha was making a rare start at centre forward alongside Glenn Murray in a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
The sides went into break with Palace worthy leaders. The new formation seemed to have created a more attacking stance to the side, and the 3 left backs were adapting well at the back.
Shortly after the break the ever-obnoxious Kenny Miller scythed down Palace youngster Matthew Parsons in a potential leg breaking tackle. Fortunately Parsons recovered, but moments later showed his inexperience by re-enacting a reckless challenge of his own to gift Cardiff a free kick between the penalty box and the corner flag. The impressive Whittingham crossed in the free kick which eluded everyone and flew into the top corner.
This rocked Palace, and they never really recovered, Cowie making it 2-1 just nine minutes later.
Freedman took the opportunity to blood some more youngster with Pedroza and de Silva coming on for Scannell and Ambrose respectively. Both looked lively, but they were unable to stimulate those around them into action, and the game inevitably finished with Cardiff as winners.
Game over, roll on August.
Price 6 – Made some impressive recovery saves from some dropped catches, and looked competent.
Parr 7 – A left back filling in at right back did very well, but struggle with crossing as he had to switch feet.
McCarthy 6 – A solid performance
Moxey 7 – Another left back out of position, but played well and set up some attacks
Parsons 7 – The third left back in the team, but the youngsters looks like another impressive graduate from the academy
Ambrose 6 – Started well, but faded. Set up the goal with a great pass
Scannell 6 – Flashes of what he can do, but is surely more effective as a striker than on the wing?
O’keefe 7 – this youngster rarely puts a foot wrong and surely should be given a more prominent role next season?
Garvan 7 – A good performance from the often lightweight midfielder, battled and passed well
Murray 5 – Little flashes of ability, but not really given the service needed
Zaha 7 – Looked dangerous down the middle but got less of the ball when moved wide. Took at knock at the end which minimised his contribution