Brighton 2-3 Palace
Crystal Palace exacted revenge on Brighton in the annual REMF Challenge Match, held for the first time at the AMEX. The hosts levelled late in last year’s match and went on to win on penalties, sending the Eagles back to South London empty handed. Palace Gaffer Ben Long vowed to strengthen the squad and he followed through like he was in the away changing room at the AMEX. Andy Johnson and Shaun Derry were added to the Palace team, making Brighton’s addition of Garry Nelson looking like a mere drop in the ocean in comparison.
At half time, however, it didn’t look like the two star additions were going to make any difference to the outcome. Both side struck the post, Brighton through Brystead and Palace through Johnson, and twice Palace keeper Terence Ford (sorry for mentioning myself so early!) brilliantly (not apologising for that) denied Woolven, who was causing Jim Daly untold problems at right back.
It was to no surprise that Brighton eventually took the lead through Woolven on 35 minutes. Daly had been replaced by Ben Wilson at right back, but the new man could not get close another to the winger to use his ‘strength’. Woolven raced away and slotted home with ease, and just five minutes later the hosts were in dreamland. Kennedy, Brighton’s scorer in last year’s fixture, came off the bench and took advantage of some sloppy defending, firing into the far corner to double the lead.
Palace ventured forward on occasion and Doc Brown threaded a superb through ball to Travis Endeacott, but the former Palace academy player’s first touch was too heavy. Meanwhile, a last ditch challenge denied skipper Jamie Whittaker a goal. Brighton looked the more likely, however, and threatened to extend the lead before the break, but like a boxer covering up after taking a big punch, Palace managed to hold on at 0-2 until the break where the lives of all of the Palace players would be changed forever.
With Palace TV presenter Chris Grierson covering the game, the cameras were on in the changing room. When Gaffer Long turned to Derry for some inspiration during the break, the former Palace skipper gave the cameraman a death stare and said “turn the camera off.”
Exactly what followed will forever stay within those four walls. “It was a bit scary” said Doc Brown during the second half. Players will share snippets of what the captain of the infamous 2009/10 squad said, but they will never be able to capture the feeling in his words. The way that an ex-professional footballer, and current manager of a Football League side, managed to inspire us to considerably raise our game, whilst also showing us how much, despite it being just a charity match, it meant to AJ and he to not lose against Crystal Palace’s arch rivals was exceptional. To paraphrase, Dezza: “We didn’t come here to lose – if this is the last 50 minutes of football you are ever going to play, do you want to go home and look at a loser in the mirror? This is Brighton, we cannot lose this game.” As we walked out of the changing room, each and every one of us felt like we could take on the world.
What also took place during the break was a few tactical adjustments. Edwards and Standing were highlighted as the Brighton heartbeat and plans were made to reduce their influence on the game. Meanwhile, Seba Daly was permanently moved to full back to use his pace against Woolven, and he managed to stifle the threat that he carried in the first period.
Another change at the break saw the introduction of Jake Newton on the left and it would be through the lanky winger that Palace would find a route back into the match. Johnson played a perfectly weighted pass into the corner of the penalty area and Newton lashed how a left footed drive into the far corner, in off the post.
With the deficit halved, Brighton sought to re-establish their two goal cushion. Kennedy looked set to do so soon after, only for Tom Meadowcroft to come out of nowhere with a last ditch challenge to deny the number 10 his second goal of the evening.
Woolven once again forced Ford into a save as his over hit cross headed towards the far corner, but a 'one for the cameras' tip over denied the youngster. That would be Ford’s last action of the game as Ryan Cunningham replaced him between the sticks, and within seconds the new Palace keeper was called into action, diving bravely in headfirst to once again deny Kennedy.
Long then identified the need for a little bit more bite in the middle of the park and on came Jack Thurston. The bearded midfielder immediately got stuck in and hit Edwards with a challenge that “nearly knocked him back to Selhurst Park” according to Johnson after the game. The added bite did not come without its setbacks, however, as a second foul led to a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area, but the effort cleared the bar and Palace were soon on level terms.
‘Tall Man’, donning number 16 for Palace, had been stretching the Brighton back line and eventually his endeavour won Palace a penalty. He picked up a 'Pirlo-esque' pass from James "Pumba" Scott and his change of direction in the penalty area fooled his marker and the referee had no option but point to the spot as his legs were taken from beneath him. “Who is on penalties?” asked several people on the bench, obviously forgetting exactly who was on the field.
I regret not asking after if Johnson felt any pressure taking the penalty. He was basically in a no win situation. He was expected to score, so could only lose if the keeper somehow made a save. Johnson sent the keeper the wrong way and it was ‘Desmond’.
Cunningham was called into action again, saving low down to his right and Seba Daly was kept out at the near post as both teams searched for a winner – before a Brighton error let Palace in.
The hosts had been playing out from the back all night and Derry had clearly had enough. He waited for the keeper to roll the ball out and pounced. He stole the ball thirty five yards from goal and, despite the Palace fans shouting “SHOOT”, he slotted a through ball to Johnson, who had expertly curved his run to stay onside. Out came the keeper, around him went Johnson and into the back of the net went the ball. The away bench emptied and the entire squad mobbed the Palace goal scorer.
With 87 minutes on the clock Palace did not have long to hold on for a famous REMF victory, but Brighton did not let them rest. With seconds remaining, the 1,042 in attendance thought the hosts had found an equaliser. The ball bounced up and hit the Brighton attacker on the arm and the linesman immediately started to flag. Nobody stopped, however, and a crashing volley flew in off the far post, but the referee’s whistle ruled the potential equaliser out and Palace would hold on to claim the trophy.
Jim Daly: The Craig Harrison of Right Backs
With a distinct lack of any recognised full backs in the Palace squad, it was always going to be a weakness for the visitors. However, in REMF veteran Daly, Long must have thought that he had as reliable a man as he could. He was wrong. Woolven run rings around him like his name was Frodo Baggins, leaving Daly complaining of dizziness to water boy Ben Mintram upon being replaced after 30 minutes.
After the match Daly announced that this “would probably be my last REMF match.” Shaun Derry might want to ask him if that is really the way that he wants to go out.
Jake Newton Scores – Will He Ever Shut Up?
There is no doubting that the introduction of Newton helped to tip the game in Palace’s favour. Nutmegs were firmly on the menu as he sought to revenge our full backs by belittling the oppositions, and his finish to get Palace back into the game was a thing of beauty.
However, there are genuine fears from the Palace REMF squad that the winger will still be talking about his REMF 15 goal by the time REMF 30 comes around.
“I’m made up for him” said one team mate after the match, who wanted to remain nameless, “but I suspect that I will have to remove my ears before long.”
“I’ve already had to take a hammer to the screen of my phone as he is already flooding the Whatsapp group with his gloating” said another.
We get it Jake, it was a great goal. Enough already.
Andrew Johnson & Shaun Derry
I am still completely astounded at how much effort they put into the match. I will never forget AJ wheeling away, eating his burger in celebration before being mobbed by the Palace squad. Hulfie brilliantly captured the moment on camera and you can tell by the look on Johnson’s face that there was no difference in his mind between scoring that goal in front of just over 1,000 people in a charity match and scoring in front of a packed Selhurst Park. It was a goal for Palace and that is all that matters.
As soon as the goal went in, Derry was turning around waving all Palace players towards the celebration. When he arrived at the bundled, his face was a picture of joy for a few seconds, before he resumed his business face and, I kid you not, telling us all “not to let this slip.” Yet further proof that he is, in fact, ‘better than Stevie G’.
Man of the Match: Seba Daly
Mentions have to go to Newton, Meadowcroft for that tackle alone, AJ for his two goals and Dezza for bossing the midfield. Props also have to go to Woolven, Edwards and Standing of Brighton, who were all excellent on the evening. I won’t mention anything about me keeping it down to just 2-0 in the first half…
The award, for me, goes to Seba Daly, however. Moved to right back just before the break, he shut down the threat of Woolven for large periods and also contributed heavily towards the organisation at the back. Without his application at the back, we would have unlikely kept the Seagulls out in the second half. Well played, mate.
Well, same place next year we hope.
I must finish on a huge congratulations to all of the people involved in organising the event, allowing people to raise money for such a fantastic cause. It truly is an honour to be involved.
Huge props to James “Pumba” Scott for raising well over £500 on his own (you can still donate here) and to co-owner Mr Browett for donating £5k to the cause as well. Further thanks have to go to all of the people that attended the event, raising well over £5k in entrance fees alone. I hope you enjoyed the spectacle that we put on for you.
And, of course, for more info on the REMF - visit their website here.
See you all next year!
Come on you Palace!