Date:Saturday February 18 2006
Crystal Palace travel the short distance to the New Den to face Millwall in this South London derby this afternoon.
While these teams share a common dislike for each other, their geographical proximity has not cemented a truly hate filled rivalry. Both sides reserve their full vitriol for other foes. History has no doubt played a part in this. There is no love lost between the Eagles and the Lions it is true, but encounters with Brighton and West Ham would no doubt raise the spirits a little more for the respective supporter. Despite the superior league standing of Charlton Athletic, Palace-Millwall has always been the fixture that offers South London football fans the truest opportunity for temporary superiority and bragging rights.
These are times of transition for Millwall. A golf and yachting loving Chairman has brought money to the club, but how much, and for what purpose is not wholly clear. A multitude of players have left the New Den in recent seasons, and despite the continuing stream of players emerging from what is a consistently excellent academy, relegation looks a distinct possibility.
Quality remains in the likes of David Livermore, Alan Dunne and Marvin Elliott but former Palace defender David Tuttle will have to adjust to management quickly and effectively to keep the Lions up. Signs of resurgence have begun to emerge in recent weeks but survival still looks a difficult task.
Palace have achieved consistency since the turn of the year, but need to keep winning if they are to maintain a promotion challenge. While they can hardly claim to have played well in more than the odd isolated game this season Palace find themselves comfortably in the play-off places. A lack of wide midfielders has clearly stopped the Eagles from flying this season. With their wings effectively clipped Palace have struggled to impose themselves in midfield. Andy Johnson still has the quality to terrorise any defence outside the Premiership. But unless the quality of service to the England striker is not improved it is likely that dreams of promotion will turn to nightmarish reality as Palace's fans see their hero play Premiership football without them.
For the Eagles it must be hoped that the derby atmosphere in the Lions' Dens is enough to rouse a performance of character. A fierce battle is likely, but if they can spread their wings against Millwall, Palace could well find the flurry that flies them onwards and upwards to the Premiership.
Crystal Palace 1 (Darren Ward).
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