Frustrating, but a financial blessing in disguise for Crystal Palace

Stiliyan Petrov’s late headed equalised denied Crystal Palace from recording a famous fifth round FA Cup victory over Aston Villa.

The goal left manager Neil Warnock fuming after referee Kevin Friend awarded a corner kick after the ball had clearly rebounded back off Nathan Delfouneso’s head. From the resulting corner Palace defenders failed to track Petrov’s late run who headed home a dramatic late equaliser.

But the result, financially, may not be such a bad thing for the cash-strapped club. I’d imagine for Crystal Palace administrator Brendan Guilfoyle the 2-2 draw – gaining a fifth round replay on Wednesday 24th February – was the perfect result.

Warnock’s side took the game to Villa, who will play in the Carling Cup final four days after their replay game against Palace, went one nil ahead through a Jonathan Ertl header inside 24 minutes from a Darren Ambrose corner sent the Palace faithful into raptures.

However the lead only lasted 12 minutes when James Collins met a Stewart Downing cross after Clint Hill gave away a needless free kick. Palace continued the second half in similar fashion to the first – snapping at the heels of every Villa player and denying them any time on the ball. The red and blue army once again took the lead via a stunning Darren Ambrose free kick from 35-yards in the 70th minute.

As Ambrose stepped up to take the free kick I had a feeling he was going to score, as I’m sure any fan does when their free kick specialist lines up for a free kick in a dangerous position. But when Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who had been at fault for the first goal, only decided to place two men in the wall my feeling grew stronger and I thought to myself: ‘does he not know Ambrose’. And as Ambrose’s strike whistling pass the slender wall into the back of the net, I’d imagine that Friedel may instruct one or two more players to tend the wall if Ambrose steps up for a free kick in ten days time.

Villa’s 87th minute equaliser broke the hearts of Palace fans and infuriated Warnock but it may work out to Palace’s advantage in terms of the financial trouble they are currently in.

The chance to go back up to the Midlands in the FA Cup, this time to face Aston Villa opposed to previous cup opponents Wolves, will land more finances for the club in a game that is surely destined to be screened live after Sunday’s epic encounter – generating further television money.

Palace are set to cash in on a 20,000 attendance that enjoyed a game played in great spirit, bar an Ashley Young dive early on, and what appeared a terrific atmosphere at Selhurst Park. With television rights worth £247,000 for the game and a replay, if won, set to earn £180,000 the FA Cup will provide the south London club with much needed cash.

And if Palace do perform the unlikely and beat Villa in ten days time Warnock may not feel too heavily aggrieved with Kevin Friend’s decision. The reward for beating Villa will be a trip to either Reading or West Bromich Albion in the quarter final and is it too ridiculous to suggest Crystal Palace in the semi-finals – which between now and then would see them earn £560,000 just in prize money.

The Eagles are soaring since they were plunged into administration less than three weeks ago and the news which devastated everyone involved with the club has seemed to galvanise them.

But the impressive way Palace have managed themselves, or should I say been managed by Neil Warnock, has attracted interest elsewhere and reports before kick-off that Queens Park Rangers have taken a keen interest in Warnock will worry many fans who believe he is key to escaping the financial woe currently surrounding the club.

Written by Sam Ross