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Crystal Palace won the Surrey FA Cup in dramatic fashion at Leatherhead on Wednesday night, ending Chelsea Reserves' five-year stranglehold on the trophy with a goal thirty seconds from the final whistle to snatch a 2-1 win.
Palace dropped out of the Premier League in 2010 and have been struggling against relegation in the South East Combination all season so this win is a welcome boost for the club. The young and very talented players in Chelsea's squad dominated the match almost from start to finish but could not find a way past a resolute Palace defence and goalkeeper.
If the end of the match was dramatic, so was the start as the first six minutes contained enough drama to fill many match reports. Palace surprised Chelsea with their pace up front from the whistle and scored when Abi Ingram burst through on goal on four minutes. Chelsea equalised almost immediately when Palace keeper Sam Sharp dropped a corner and Dani Russell was on hand for a tap in. Palace stormed back and Sherrelle Walters outpaced the back four to be hauled down by Steph Abbott outside the area. The keeper received a yellow card and the free kick was wide.
Gradually, the Blues took control and pushed Palace deeper and deeper with flowing moves. The goal bore a charmed life as Chelsea battered it with shots and crosses. Both full backs cleared off the line and keeper Sharp pushed an effort on to the underside of the bar, falling on the rebound right on the line.
After the break, the pattern remained similar, although Palace managed to defend higher up the pitch and restrict Chelsea to longer range efforts for the most part. With Walters having an outstanding match as a lone striker, Palace had enough threat to keep the Blues defence on their toes. Even so, it only seemed a matter on time before one of the Chelsea attacks would result in a goal. Sharp made a fine save in the 85th minute, leaping to palm over a powerful shot and extra time seemed inevitable.
Then, in the fourth minute of added time, Palace won possession by the corner flag, Walters broke free along the goal line and chipped the ball towards the far post where Ingram, arriving with perfect timing, launched herself to head the ball into the roof of the net. The team and their numerous supporters in a very good crowd of around 400 went wild as the final whistle was blown some thirty seconds later to leave the holders stunned and defeated.
Chelsea Reserves are having a fine season in the FA Premier Reserve League and played very attactive football during this match. However the winners stuck at their task throughout and showed great determination, taking their chances when they came.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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