By Anthony Hay
Crystal Palace showed they can compete with the Premier League big boys after an authoritative FA Cup 0-0 draw against Stoke City.
Palace maintained their 13-match unbeaten run at Selhurst Park, but will have to win a third round replay at the Britannia Stadium to progress.
Ian Holloway made four changes to the side that defeated Wolves with Lewis Price, Stuart O’Keefe and Jermaine Easter coming into the starting line-up at the expense of Julian Speroni, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Glenn Murray – while Damien Delaney returned to the side after serving a three-match suspension.
Stoke boasted former England internationals Michael Owen and Peter Crouch in their side, as well as Danish international goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
While a replay is not ideal for Palace, Holloway cut a pleased figure saying: “I wanted to win or lose [due to the fixture congestion] but I am glad we didn’t lose because I felt my boys played very well. I am delighted with the lads.
“Now we have another away game where it is notoriously difficult to play because their club is buzzing. It will be a fantastic experience for my lot.”
Palace’s Andre Moritz was handed the first chance of the match when the playmaker sent a finessed shot just wide of Sorensen’s goal in the 33rd minute.
Wilfried Zaha, who was playing through the middle, was also unlucky not to break the deadlock just before half-time when the forward collected a delightful pass from Mile Jedinak only to be denied by Sorensen.
Holloway’s side contested the remainder of the first half superbly as Stoke, who are currently 13 places higher than Palace, were restricted to just one chance - which was squandered by Crouch.
Moritz had a second opportunity to open the scoring just after the interval when Yannick Bolasie ran down the left before teeing up the attacking midfielder who sent a wayward shot over the bar.
Palace suffered a major blow when Zaha was forced off early on in the second half after a late challenge by Stoke’s Ryan Shotton.
The injury on Palace’s wonderkid was not as serious as first thought with Holloway convinced the winger will be fit for the Championship trip to Burnley next weekend.
Substitute Jason Banton – who was making his debut for Palace – had a superb chance to test Sorensen but his near post effort failed to work the experienced Dane.
It was to be the last chance and so Palace are in the draw for the fourth round, they just need to get past Stoke on their own turf for the right to play in it.