Crystal Palace's Under-23s gave their play-off hopes a huge boost as they came from behind to secure a dramatic last-minute victory over Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park.
- Tomkins and Clyne start in a strong U23s side at Selhurst Park.
- Malley races on to a loose ball in midfield and finishes to give Middlesbrough the lead.
- Burrell is inches from doubling their lead as he strikes the post.
- Clyne sets up David Boateng at the far post, who fires home to bring Palace level.
- Spence strikes the crossbar from the edge of the area.
- HT: Palace 1-1 Middlesbrough
- O’Brien’s powerful header from Spence’s corner gives Palace the lead.
- Malley equalises with a powerful strike into the top corner.
- O’Brien’s second wins it in the final minute of added time.
- FT: Palace 3-2 Middlesbrough
The visitors started the game on the front foot, a flurry of corners penning Palace back into their own defensive third. Ollie Webber was called into action early on to block Joseph Gibson’s effort, after Sharif and Isaac Fletcher had combined to create space on the right-hand side.
With their confidence growing, Middlesbrough were finding space behind the Palace backline, and soon it paid dividends with the opening goal. Under pressure in midfield, James Taylor’s loose pass was seized upon by Connor Malley, who rounded Jake O’Brien and fired past the goalkeeper.
The opening goal spurred them onwards and soon it was almost two. This time Malley turned provider, his ball allowing Burrell to advance on Webber, but the striker’s effort cannoned back off the post and was cleared.
It was a let-off for the hosts and a missed opportunity for Middlesbrough, who were made to rue their profligacy moments later as Palace pulled level. It was a goal created by the first-team quality of Nathaniel Clyne, as he bust down the right and used his strength to reach the byline.
His ball to the back post was perfectly weighted for the onrushing David Boateng, who fired home from close range after his initial header was blocked.
Palace’s equaliser gave them a foothold in the game, and the remainder of the first-half was played on a far more even footing. The visitors could – and perhaps should – have been ahead once again when Burrell found Fletcher, who rounded the goalkeeper but saw the ball cleared off the line by a well positioned Jay Rich-Baghuelou.
At the other end, Palace were just as threatening. James Tomkins found Boateng on the left, with the full-back able to dart into the penalty area and pull the ball back for Spence. The Welshman’s shot bounced back off the crossbar and looked to be dropping perfectly for Rob Street, but his volley was saved well by Solomon Brynn in goal.
In the second-half Palace’s intensity was much improved, and they took the game to the visitors immediately after the restart. For all their attacking endeavour however, it was still proving difficult to fashion clear chances for Street up front.
It was fitting, then, that their second came from a set-piece. Sion Spence’s corner was inviting, and it was powerfully headed home by the onrushing Jake O’Brien to complete Palace’s comeback. Brynn had absolutely no chance.
Palace introduced two of their Under-18s prospects from the substitutes bench, with Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Tayo Adaramola injecting energy into the hosts’ performance.
But Middlesbrough refused to lie down, and poured forwards through Gibson, who set up Fletcher for a low effort. The shot was saved by Webber, but Burrell laid off the rebound for Malley on the angle; he struck beautifully into the top corner.
There was a final sting in the tail however, as Palace won a free-kick just inside the Middlesbrough half deep into added time. Spence stepped up to take once again, and just as earlier in the half, he found O’Brien for a powerful headed effort into the bottom corner to give Palace all three points.
Palace: Webber (GK), Tomkins (Adaramola, 62), O'Brien, Rich-Baghuelou, Clyne (Rak-Sakyi, 62), D. Boateng, M. Boateng, Taylor, Spence, Matthews (Gordon, 76), Street.
Subs not used: Goodman (GK), Steele.
Middlesbrough: Brynn (GK), Gibson, Kokolo, Sykes, Robinson, Sivi (Cornet, 79), Sharif (Wells, 59), Hackney, Malley, Burrell, Fletcher.
Subs not used: Green, Dijksteel, Hemming.