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Ian Holloway delighted at Eagles' premier show against Stoke City


PALACE boss Ian Holloway paid tribute to his players after their heroic goalless draw against Premier League outfit Stoke City last Saturday.

The Eagles more than matched their top-flight opponents throughout the contest and had the better of the chances, but they will now travel to the Britannia Stadium for the replay on Tuesday next week.

"I saw us looking more like my team, so I'm delighted," said the manager.

"I thought we played very well, and we had to, and it was a very decent game.

"All I'm looking at is shape and pattern, and it's starting to come. There are bits we can do better, like getting turned and getting at people, but obviously without Glenn Murray we had a bit of a problem and I thought we started a different way.

"It almost got us a goal when they sussed it out, so I had to go back to what we normally do, but I'm delighted with the lads – that was probably the youngest bench I've ever had.

"Now we've got another game away at Stoke, which is notoriously difficult to go and play away, because their crowd is brilliant, so it will be a fantastic experience for my lot."

Just two minutes were on the clock when Palace created the first chance of the match when Jermaine Easter cut inside from the left and forced Thomas Sorensen into a fine parry.

And the Eagles nearly converted the follow-up through good link-up play from Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, but the visitors managed to clear their lines.

Stoke had a great chance to open the scoring when old England pair Michael Owen and Peter Crouch combined inside the box following the corner, but the latter scuffed a shot wide from just three yards out.

Palace midfielder Stuart O'Keefe received the first yellow card of the afternoon when he lunged in on Jonathan Walters, and following the free-kick, Ryan Shotton raced down the right and delivered for Crouch, but the tall striker headed woefully over.

Walters went in the book for a late challenge on Dean Moxey on the half-hour mark, and from the resulting free-kick, Sorensen punched clear, but the ball fell to Moxey to shoot back towards goal, only for a Stoke defender to put in a timely block.

Andre Moritz, who scored two goals on New Year's Day against Wolves, then went very close to grabbing the first goal of the afternoon for Palace when he found space inside the box before opening up his body and curling an effort towards goal, but it went inches wide.

Zaha was next to go close shortly before the break when he forced Sorensen into another top save with a ferocious shot on the right side of the danger area.

Bolasie had the first chance of the second period when he found space in the middle of the park but scuffed a shot wide from a full 25-yards out, while Zaha nearly danced his way through the Stoke defence moments later but the ball was eventually cleared away.

Michael Kightly had the next chance of the match but shot high and wide of Lewis Price's goal, before Moritz had a great opportunity at the other end but he scuffed a shot over from inside the box after a strong run from Bolasie.

And Bolasie tested Sorensen soon after with a low shot, before Zaha limped off with an injury and was replaced by Jonathan Williams.

Stoke made a couple of changes, sending on Charlie Adam and Cameron Jerome for Owen and Kightly, and Jerome had a shot well saved by Price from the edge of the box minutes after his introduction.

Kwesi Appiah replaced Easter in attack midway through the half, while Jason Banton came on for Bolasie to make his first-team debut shortly after.

And the youngster had a great chance to show Selhurst Park what he could do when Moritz played a great through ball to him on the left side of the box, but he shot wide of the near post with a couple of team-mates waiting in the centre.

Banton was then at the heart of Palace's next attack when he motored down the left and cut inside, and despite a slight touch from a Stoke defender, he decided to stay on his feet.

The ball fell to Appiah on the edge of the box and the striker played Williams in on the right, but his low shot was well saved by Sorensen down to his right.

With four minutes added on, Stoke full-back Geoff Cameron delivered a great ball across goal, but thankfully for Palace no one was on the end of it.

And the Eagles could have snatched it at the end when Peter Ramage fired over the final chance of the match when he looked to get on the end of a free-kick.

Ian Holloway delighted at Eagles' premier show against Stoke City

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