Relief dominates Palace emotions

AN emotional Paul Hart revealed he will start looking for work again next week after ending his short-term contract at Crystal Palace by keeping them in the Championship.

Hart, in charge at Portsmouth and then QPR earlier in a helter-skelter season, was drafted in by Palace’s administrators in January with a brief to ensure the Londoners, a reported £30million in debt, stayed up.

He succeeded thanks to a nerve-shredding 2-2 draw in a last-day relegation decider at Sheffield Wednesday and revealed “it would be no hardship” to carry on.

Hart also spared a thought for Wednesday, where he spent two years as a player in the 1980s, who were plunged back into League One for the second time in five years in front of a crowd of 37,121 at a sold-out Hillsborough.

Palace were left clinging on for survival after Owls skipper Darren Purse slid home an 86th-minute equaliser at the far post.

Hart’s side, who needed only a point to survive and send the Owls down, took a 24th-minute lead when Alan Lee headed home Darren Ambrose’s cross.

Leon Clarke hauled Wednesday level just before the break when he curled home a brilliant shot inside the far post, but Ambrose struck the decisive blow for Palace with a low, right-footed finish after Sean Scannell’s cutback in the 62nd minute.

Hart said: “It’s been a very emotional day. Great relief on our part, but there’s sadness on their part because Alan Irvine’s a friend and I played here as well and I’ve been relegated and it’s not very nice.”

Wealthy Palace fans group CPFC 2010 remain in pole position to take over both the club and Selhurst Park, which is separately owned, and talks with the administrators will continue next week.

Hart added: “We’re hoping the new ownership gets completed and now they can build from a sounder base of Championship football, which I think is important. It’s such a great club that I would fully expect, with the correct business practices put in place, that the right visionary people, if handled properly, could make great progress.”

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