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01/02: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 09/03/02
Crystal Palace
Selhurst serenade
By Don Fraser

"Dad, why don't we support the team playing in yellow as they're playing much better than us?". Dad mumbled something that I didn't catch and this was shortly followed by the flid two chairs up from me shouting "Francis out". (Something he did frequently after that, a bit like one of those teddy bears you pat on the back.)

This was not a pre-match dream. In fact, I heard 'em about half way through the second half at that tip of a football ground called Selhurst Park.

One of the reasons I hate going there is that if you're a flid (ie, in a wheelchair) and an away fan, you're miles away from the away section. Also the fact that it takes so long to get there.

The stewards are about as friendly as those at West Brom. I noticed that they no longer use Gold Range stewards, whereas WFC have just started to in the Rookery. (A mere coincidence that the number of ejections on match days has shot up? But I digress.)

Anyway, off we trotted to 'sunny' Sarf London and made surprisingly good time 'til we came off the motorway. Dark clouds above and hailstones. At least we were undercover and surely we were due to beat Palarse if we played anything like we did at West Brom. To top it all, I made sure I was wearing my 'lucky socks'. Far more powerful, in every sense, than Pete Fincham's famed lucky sandals.

Pre-match, looking at the programme, my 'escort' was his usual optimistic self. "We haven't beaten this lot since 93". "All the more reason to be here than, in case we witness this rare event". Looking around the fleapit that is Selhurst, that is the only reason.

Same team as West Brom except for Heidar Helguson (suspended) and Gavin Mahon in for Jamie Hand. The paper bags on the pitch were doing a merry dance in the wind and the kids in the family enclosure sat down for all of a minute before disappearing off for food. Judging by the amount of food being eaten the catering was certainly not by Beeton Rumford.

But for some brilliant saves by AC we could have quite easily been a couple of goals down early on. His heroics seemed to inspire the rest of the team and gradually we were playing with belief and commitment. After a shaky ten minutes or so, Mahon settled down and played very well. We played as a unit and just when I was wondering where the ref got three minutes of injury time from, up popped Nielsen, brilliant all afternoon, with the answer. 1-0.

Second half continued in much the same way. Creating more and more chances. Smithy could/should have had a hat trick but at least he was there to miss them. AC made some blinding saves, not least from his own players, and the surface at Selhurst makes ours look like a billiard table, which didn't help matters.

I was miles away from the second goal but it was scored a few minutes into the second half by Marcus Gayle after good work from Mahon. We really needed a third to tie the game up, or at least to settle my nerves.

Although I was the far end of the stand I could clearly hear our fans getting behind the team right from the off. Stay positive - it's much more fun and if we must go to pits like Selhurst we might as well enjoy the day. Most of the people in 'my part' of the Arthur Wait Stand (and how proud he would be if he could see it now!) were long gone before the final whistle. Probably queuing up for more chips.

A good hardworking performance by the Golds. Marching on to Ipswich reserves and Cov.