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Jon Riley 25th Apr 2010 - 21:04

Palace need to show Hart to secure safety

Crystal Palace go into Monday's crucial match knowing that a victory against already promoted West Brom will ensure their Championship survival.

Paul Hart's men would be four points clear of Sheffield Wednesday with only one game left to play.

However, a draw or a defeat to Roberto Di Matteo's Baggies would mean that Palace could still be relegated if they lose to, wait for it, Sheffield Wednesday on the last game of the season.

Things would have been all so different for Palace had they not entered administration in January and been deducted the subsequent 10 points. At that time they were in the top half of the Championship, through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and generally enjoying a decent season. Once the points were taken, their prize asset Victor Moses was sold and eventually the manager Neil Warnock left for QPR.

Without their points penalty they would currently be sat in 13th place.

West Brom guaranteed their promotion with a thrilling 3-2 victory away to Doncaster and continued the celebrations at home to Middlesbrough a week later with a 2-0 win in front of their delighted fans. The Baggies and Champions Newcastle have been the two outstanding teams in the league this season and have thoroughly deserved their positions at the summit of the Coca Cola Championship.

Di Matteo's men have really hit the gas in the last few weeks accelerating away from Nottingham Forest and the rest of the play-off pack. A sequence of ten games unbeaten has lifted the Baggies into the automatic places and eleven points clear of their nearest rivals.

Both teams are priced at 8/5 to win this match. West Brom would usually be heavy favourites to win such a game but given the fact they have already secured their place back in the top tier of English football and that Crystal Palace are fighting for their lives, the prices are much more even.

The draw is 12/5 but Palace fans know that this result is not good enough and only the three points will do if they are to cling on to Championship survival.

Stern John came off the bench to score a vital 90th minute equaliser at Pride Park last Saturday, the point which separates the Eagles and the Owls. He is 11/2 to score the first goal and 6/4 to notch anytime. The same prices have been bestowed upon journeyman centre forward Alan Lee who has only scored five league goals all season but will be forgiven if the sixth is the one that keeps his side up.

The value could lie with fourteen goal top scorer Darren Ambrose. He is 6/1 to open the scoring. Regardless of which division the Eagles ply their trade next season Ambrose is likely to depart with many Championship clubs keen to sign him up.

West Bromwich Albion are a team that like to spread the goals around. They have three players in double figures for league goals this season and have the best away attack in the Championship.

One player hoping to do his former team a favour will be winger Chris Brunt. The former Wednesday wide man is a very generous 8/1 to open the scoring considering he is the Baggies top scorer in the league so far. His free kick prowess and ability to get into the box have seen him find the back of the net on 13 occasions and he's also 11/4 to strike anytime against Palace.

Brunt's team mates Roman Bednar and Graeme Dorrans are 6/1 and 7/1 respectively.

When I think about giving my recommendation for this match I have to decide whether to bet with my heart or with my head. As a Sheffield Wednesday fan myself (no jokes please!) I will be betting on the scorecast with Chris Brunt to score first and West Brom to win 2-0 at 75/1 which although unlikely could happen...it could!

If I was to bet with my head though I might have to plump for Palace. I can see them sneaking this one, especially with a packed Selhurst Park crowd behind them. The correct score of 1-0 appeals to me greatly at 13/2 and that would send the thousands of Eagles fans into delirium....not so great for us Owls fans though.


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