Match report: Crystal Palace 0 Barnsley 0

David Flitcroft applauds the following Reds fans.
David Flitcroft applauds the following Reds fans.
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The equation doesn’t get any easier for Barnsley, but a battling point away to promotion-chasers Crystal Palace was further evidence the club are going to fight for their lives to stay in the Championship.

In truth this was an ugly affair as the Reds rarely threatened. In fact they didn’t even test Eagles keeper Julian Speroni all afternoon.

But what the visitors lacked as an attacking force, they more than matched with a determination and belief to lock the back door to frustrate one of the division’s automatic front-runners.

No wonder Reds’ boss David Flitcroft was proud of his players, especially as a precious point – which could prove crucial in the final analysis – saw his side move one point clear above the relegation zone with just six league fixtures remaining.

Tomorrow’s somewhat daunting away clash with Cardiff City will really test the Reds, but a fine win over Leicester City and now a gutsy draw over Palace in the space of six days, has provided added hope that the club can stay up.

“We can’t fear the ‘big’ teams – and we won’t,” reflected Flitcroft after his side’s shut-out draw in the capital.

“Last weekend (Flitcroft was referring to a 2-0 win over Leicester City on Bank Holiday Easter Monday) I was waxing lyrical about the football we played and the style we played, and the exhilarating performance.

“But this was a different side to the game – and there are different ways you’ve got to win a football match.

“I wanted a half-time clean-sheet.

“We got one, deservedly so, and then in the second half we have had to dig in, be resolute and courageous in what we’ve done.

“The lads have stuck to their task to a man.

“We’ve got the point. We’ve deserved the point and we will create more chances and score goals in our next six matches.”

Indeed they did and against opponents who are now eight points adrift of an automatic promotion places with only five fixtures remaining.

Maybe it was a good time for the Reds to face the Eagles as they went in search of their first win at Selhurst Park for 13 years?

Ian Holloway’s side had lost their last four games, not won in their last four matches or been able to score a goal in any of those matches.

But the Eagles were certainly up or the challenge and Holloway admitted afterwards that his side “had a big ruck” in the changing room after the match, gutted they had not taken the three points.

“Let’s not kid ourselves here, this (Crystal Palace) team we’ve come up against have aspirations of getting in the Premier League,” stressed Flitcroft.

“They’ve got Premier League players in the making and with Glenn Murray, Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie, Mile Jedinak and the boy Jonathan Williams, who I love.

“They are a top class Championship team who have not been able to score against a resilient Barnsley team.

“The eight players we had to defend with leaving the two strikers up front, well they were just incredible.

“Concentration and focus was the key. You’ve got to stay focused because if you switch off once you’ll get punished.

“Glenn Murray is a Premier League striker, there’s no doubt about that.

“You see Rickie Lambert in there (playing in the Premier League.) Glenn Murray is going to score goals in the Premier League if Palace get there.

“We’ve contained him and we contained the support around him. That’s important when you come to a place like Palace.

“I don’t know how many teams have not been able to keep a clean sheet here this season and not been able to defend against someone like him (Murray) but we’ve defended brilliantly to a man.”

There was extra spice just before the contest after a stand-off over which kit Barnsley should wear.

According to Flitcroft, his side had been given permission to wear their red home kits because their blue and black away kits apparently clashed with Palace’s blue and red strip.

However, referee Kevin Stroud thought differently and a couple of hours before kick-off told Barnsley they would have to wear Palace’s yellow and blue away kit.

In the end the kit drama didn’t effect the result, although both managers had a different take on the unwanted pre-match saga.

Holloway was adamant that Barnsley could wear their red kit, but he said that Flitcroft had said his side were going to wear Palace’s strip instead because they had been unable to wear their red under-armour kit.

“Was it a still problem? Yes it was,” said Holloway.

But Flitcroft stressed: “There was a bit of a stand off with the kit before the game because I didn’t want my team not to have the Barnsley badge.

“It’s something we play for every day and something we play for on a Saturday.

“But then you realise the sense is to listen to the referee. We decided to go with Crystal Palace’s kit in the end.

“We have done everything they could before the game to make sure the situation was right and professional.

“But at the end of the day it was always going to be about the football.”

Flitcroft made one forced change to his side with centre-back Martin Cranie having failed a late fitness test with a hamstring injury, with Stephen Foster recalled to the starting line-up.

However, after Jason Scotland’s second minute shot wide, the Reds didn’t even manage a shot on target as Eagles keeper Julian Speroni didn’t have a save to make.

And it was the visitors who dominated possession and who forced the pressure.

Skipper Luke Steele producing a blinding save to block Andre Moritz’s left-foot free-kick in the 16th minute and then the keeper denied to deny Murray on the half hour mark.

The pressure didn’t relent and Steele saved from Bolasie and then Moritz rifled over just before the break.

Steele saved well from Moritz’s deflected free kick three minutes after the restart and then was lucky not to see his deflected clearance fly into his own net after Murray had done well to chase down a loose back pass from Tom Kennedy.

Foster made a brilliant goalline clearance with the Reds under the cosh, before Murray headed over from a Moritz corner.

Substitute Aaron Wilbraham blazed over having been on the pitch for less than 30 seconds and then wasted and even better chance in the last minute of the contest.

Fellow sub Kevin Phillips and Williams both shot over, but the Reds clung on for what could prove to a vital point in their challenge to retain their Championship status.

It was Barnsley’s first goalless draw of the season.