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How Valentine’s became a stand-out date in Palace history

14 February 2020

Over the years, Crystal Palace have enjoyed historic success on Valentine’s Day. It may only come around once a year and land on a footballing day even less frequently, but the Eagles have recorded a string of landmark performances on February 14th.

We’ve taken a look back at three of the best.

1976 - Taylor dismantles Chelsea

When Division Three Crystal Palace took to the Stamford Bridge turf against names such as Peter Bonetti, Ray Wilkins and Ron Harris, they knew they were entering the FA Cup Fifth Round as clear and deserving underdogs.

But while Chelsea boasted Bonetti, Wilkins and Harris, Palace had Peter Taylor, who dazzled at his mesmeric best that afternoon in SW6 - scoring twice and assisting once. 

The game’s first goal came via Nicky Chatterton - son of the iconic groundsman, Len - who poked home from six yards as Taylor’s thunderous shot cannoned off the underside of the crossbar to fall kindly to the Palace midfielder. Next up, Taylor would drive home from 20 yards out before netting a memorable free-kick from the edge of the box to seal victory and progression in the FA Cup.

Peter Taylor v Chelsea 1976.jpg

After Taylor's first, the Blues did, however, pull two goals back to bring the game level at 2-2. And then came Taylor’s free-kick.

Palace were awarded a dead ball just outside the Chelsea box and, having played the standout game of his career, only one man could ever step-up to strike it.

Dave Swindlehurst burst towards the spot-kick, but he knew the score. The forward dummied a shot and ran past the ball, leaving Taylor to cooly strike home and launch the Eagles into the FA Cup quarter final, where he would assist Alan Whittle’s solitary effort to secure Palace’s first-ever Cup semi final.

Perhaps more memorable than Taylor’s masterclass that day, though, was Allison lifting three fingers to the Chelsea fans - famously forewarning them of the score.

Malcolm Allison Chelsea FA Cup.jpg

2004 - Johnson scores three as Palace romp to Valentine’s victory

Andrew Johnson was in the form of his life as Stoke City travelled to Selhurst Park in 2004. So when he netted after just five minutes against the Potters, those inside SE25 may well have envisioned a busy afternoon.

Sure enough, the visiting John Eustace bagged barely a minute later and the supporters’ expectations were vindicated, with Palace and Stoke going on to bag seven more times between them.

Fans had always been in for a high-octane treat, though, as two of the First Division’s most in-form sides butted heads in SE25. Palace had won five of their last six fixtures with Stoke boasting seven from nine. Both teams were hunting promotion, and both teams had left it late to make their push.

But the key figure to separate the two sides was Johnson - who struck home for the 18th time in 16 games that afternoon, later becoming the league’s top scorer on 28 goals. The following season Johnson would come close to repeating the feat in the Premier League, bagging 21 times to finish runner-up behind Arsenal’s Thierry Henry on 25.

2010 - Ambrose stunner earns underdogs a draw

Darren Ambrose may well have been the master of the sublime, but still no one expected him to score when he approached a free-kick against Premier League Aston Villa on Valentine’s Day 2010.

It was the FA Cup fifth round: Ambrose was 35 yards out, he was facing the famous Brad Friedel and his club were plunged into administration just two weeks before. There was no way the midfielder could or should try an audacious, risky effort as his cash-strapped club held a precious draw with League Cup finalists and top tier giants Aston Villa.

Ambrose goal v Aston Villa free-kick.jpg

But this was Darren Ambrose, and this was an audacious, risky effort from 35 yards out.

The midfielder promptly scored.

Frustratingly, Villa would equalise through Stiliyan Petrov in the dying minutes and later go on to win the FA Cup replay. Palace would, of course, be rescued on the last day of the season with that legendary Survival Sunday draw and the club would be saved when the CPFC 2010 consortium took over.

Amidst all the drama of that year, however, Ambrose’s free-kick remains an understated highlight.

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