An early goal from Chris Martin left Leeds United with everything to do at Selhurst Park as a well-organised and efficient looking Crystal Palace side dominated proceedings.

There were few signs of Leeds United taking anything from this fixture save for a little flurry midway through the half, but when the referee sent off the impressive Sean Scannell for a second bookable offence, The Whites were gifted an undeserved lifeline.

Two soft yellow cards equalled one ridiculous sending off, but in an era where the Football Association and FIFA and trying desperately to make the game a non-contact sport, I doubt it shocked many.

The problem is that you can find a “by the book” reason to pull a card out for every tackle nowadays, so the referee will have no problem justifying his decision. Yet shortly after the red card, Zac Thompson escaped punishment for a much dodgier looking foul and it’s these inconsistencies that drive football fans to total despair. Even though it worked in our favour, I don’t want to see that anymore than the Palace fans did. It detracts from the game we all love and is a growing problem that Vincent Kompany quite eloquently summed up on his Facebook page this week. But anyway, I digress…

Second half, man advantage and Leeds United had cause for optimism. Anyone expecting a stroll to victory however, clearly hasn’t seen the Dougie Freedman era Crystal Palace. More importantly, they probably haven’t seen Leeds United play against ten men which is always a painful sight to behold.

The Whites were predictably impatient, lacking the calm and collective approach it takes to break down a defence fighting to cling on to a lead. Long shots, ridiculously over-complicated passes and poor control was the order of the day and for all the possession, Julian Speroni had little trouble keeping Leeds out.

Despite all this, Leeds managed to find an equaliser. Robert Snodgrass made his return from the bench minus one appendix and swept home a ball from Ross McCormack to level the scores. Leeds still weren’t convincing anyone, but with 30 minutes left to play you had to fancy our chances.

Unfortunately, the goal did nothing to change things. With the crowd demanding all-out-attack, the lads desperately tried to oblige and in doing so, made things far too easy for Palace. At this point, a more confident side would have played patient football, retaining possession and passing the ball around to drag Palace players out of position. The opposition will tire, someone will find a little too much space and that’s when you strike – that’s how you play against ten men.

Leeds chose a different approach. Lacking patience and aimlessly shooting from range, Crystal Palace found it far too easy to defend their lines and forge breakaway attacks that meant Leeds had to drag players back and start over. Even defending for their lives, Palace looked the more self-assured of the two sides because Leeds weren’t making the extra man count.

Our knack for scoring injury time goals couldn’t save us and the final score of 1-1 reflected only the referees performance. There’s no denying the fact Crystal Palace were the better team, even with ten men they never looked particularly overawed.

So the inevitable moaning that will follow is justified, but you have to balance all the negativity out by taking a step back and looking at the opposition you’re up against. Under Dougie Freedman, Palace have been incredible. League Cup Semi-Finalists (maybe more?) will be the big story of their season, but they’ve been no pushovers in the league either. Their home record is solid, they have more clean sheets than anyone and they play with plenty of confidence. It’s a truly remarkable transformation that Freedman has engineered at Selhurst Park and we should be happy with a point really. You don’t get an easy game at Palace anymore, times have changed.

That said, a more confident and composed Leeds United side probably would have won this, if only because of the man advantage. We’ve not been quite right since Jonny Howson was ruled out through injury and Simon Grayson’s squad needs January reinforcements to give the fans and players a boost. We’re just about holding on in there at the moment and a couple of fresh faces should be enough to put us in the play-off picture come May.

This isn’t about “lacking passion” and no one “has lost the dressing room”. Such reactionary nonsense is easy to throw around when fans feel they should have got more, but the reality is, we’re halfway through the season, missing a couple of key players, lacking fitness/form in others and need some fresh blood to mix things up.

Contrary to popular belief, Leeds United do not have the largest squad in this division. Reading do. Leeds meanwhile rank 16th in order of squad size and injuries, form and fitness are costing us. The simple fact is, Crystal Palace are in better shape than we are at present so let’s at least try to keep the doom and gloom to a minimum and offer some respect to a strong opposition whose 11 clean sheets this season stand testament to the strength of their defence.

On and on…