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Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Saturday, 10 May 2008 14:15 UK

Crystal Palace 1-2 Bristol City

By Ian Hughes

Crystal Palace and Bristol City
City have the advantage for Tuesday's return match

David Noble's stunning injury-time drive gave Bristol City the lead in the Championship play-off semi-final.

Dele Adebola had the best chance of the first half but his header was superbly saved by Palace keeper Julian Speroni.

City took the lead after the break when Louis Carey curled into the top corner from a well-worked free-kick.

Carey fouled Jose Fonte and Ben Watson smashed in the penalty to level but Noble produced a sensational 30-yard effort to give City the advantage.

And on the balance of play, and particularly chances, it was no more than City deserved after matching their in-form opponents.

Manager Gary Johnson had made it clear before the match that City's aim was to ensure they gave themselves a chance for the second leg.

Palace went into the match having lost only once in 12 games and charged into the play-offs.

But while Palace had the fist sight on goal - a Ben Watson shot that sailed over - it was soon clear they would not have an easy task against a combative City side.

Nick Carle demonstrated his side's determination with two tough challenges in quick succession, but he was lucky to get away his first, a nasty one on Ben Watson.

And then Palace defender Fonte made what looked at first to be a superb challenge on Michael McIndoe as the City striker bore down on goal.

However, replays showed McIndoe's penalty claims appeared justified as Fonte's contact with the ball was minimal at best.

As the action swung to the other end, Scott Sinclair toe-poked a chance weakly and Clinton Morrison also failed to get power into an effort after a sweeping move.

In between those opportunities, it was City who almost took the lead.

Only an excellent save from Speroni kept out Adebola's header after he had been found by Bradley Orr's superb cross from the right.

Eight minutes after the break, City struck with a move straight from the training ground.

Noble rolled a fee-kick to Carle and he found Carey inside the box, the City skipper curling in a fine shot for his first goal of the season.

Immediately, Palace took off Victor Moses and brought on James Scowcroft but it was a gamble that went wrong as the substitute pulled a hamstring muscle within minutes of his arrival and was forced off.

However, the hosts began to press and Watson and Clint Hill were wasteful with headed chances.

City looked strong defensively and Palace appeared to be running out of ideas.

But then Carey turned from City hero to villain as he slipped in the box and then, in trying to regain the ball, brought down Fonte.

Watson levelled confidently from the spot and it appeared that Palace had rescued themselves and City would be left feeling robbed.

Not so, as in time added on, Noble picked up the ball 30 yards out before unleashing a vicious strike which flew into the top corner.

It was a goal worthy of winning any match and it gives City the edge for the second leg on Tuesday.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Butterfield, Hudson, Fonte, Hill, Soares, Watson, Derry (Lawrence 76), Moses (Scowcroft 55), Sinclair, Morrison, Scowcroft (Ifill 61).
Subs Not Used: Fletcher, Scannell.

Goals: Watson 87 pen.

Bristol City: Basso, Orr, McCombe, Carey, McAllister, Carle, Noble (Johnson 90), Elliott, McIndoe, Adebola, Trundle (Fontaine 90).
Subs Not Used: Weale, Sproule, Byfield.

Booked: Elliott.

Goals: Carey 53, Noble 90.

Att: 22,869

Ref: Michael Jones (Cheshire).

see also
Warnock sends out warning to City
10 May 08 |  Championship
C Palace-Bristol C as it happened
10 May 08 |  Championship
Who will make play-off finals?
08 May 08 |  Football

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