There aren't a huge number of memorable games against Aston Villa, but for Darryl Murdoch, the draw with the Midlands club in 2010 was one that he personally remembers vividly.
February 2010 was grim for Palace fans. At the tail end of January, the Eagles were plunged into administration and were forced to sell star players Victor Moses and Jose Fonte to keep the Brendan Guilfoyle shaped wolf from the door and it looked like curtains for the club. It wasn't looking good for me either around this time. I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in January after a period of ill health and found myself waylaid in hospital as our FA Cup 5th Round showdown with Premier League Aston Villa came around.
At the time, I genuinely thought this could be the last time I got to see a 'big team' come to Selhurst so I focused on getting well enough to be discharged by the Friday so that I could take my place on the gantry to cover the game as co-commentator for Palace Radio. Friday afternoon came and went and according to the docs I wasn’t well enough to go home, but they would review me in the morning – they did, and again ‘Sorry Mr Murdoch, you’re not well enough to be discharged’ was the message.
Sod that! No way was I missing such an important game, so against doctors (and my future wife’s) advice and wishes, I discharged myself and headed home. I rocked up to Selhurst the next day for the game and I was glad that I did – Neil Warnock’s Palace took the game to Villa and were only a few minutes away from knocking out the former European Champions! Johnny Ertl gave Palace an early lead but it was the Eagles’ second goal that made me glad I had ignored the doctor’s advice!
With 20 minutes to go, and the scores locked a 1-1, Palace were awarded a free kick around half way inside the Aston Villa half after Nick Carle (remember him?) was fouled. Up stepped Darren Ambrose and the rest, they say, is history. From fully 35 yards, Dazza smashed the ball into the top corner of Brad Friedel’s net, the big American unable to keep the ball out despite getting a big, and if you know Brad, you know that means, BIG! Hand on the ball. Palace were in front thanks to another Darren Ambrose wonder strike and looked to be heading to the Quarter Finals until Stiliyan Petrov's late equaliser denied the Eagles a spot in the last eight.
Palace went on to lose the replay up at Villa Park by three goals to one just before Neil Warnock left to join Queens Park Rangers. Palace went to on, largely thanks to the goals and influence of Darren Ambrose, to survive a last-day relegation shoot out with Sheffield Wednesday and preserve their Championship status. The club was saved from liquidation in June and five years later, things couldn’t be any more different as we welcome Aston Villa back to Selhurst with Palace the favourites to pick up the win!