Crystal Palace 1 Southampton 1
Itzhak Zohar has done little to endear himself to Crystal Palace supporters since his pounds 1.2m move from Antwerp in the summer and his reputation sunk to a new low at Selhurst Park yesterday. With 11 minutes remaining, the Israeli international stepped up to take a penalty which would have given Palace their first home victory of the season, but his weakly struck shot was comfortably saved by Paul Jones.
Bruce Dyer had earned the spot-kick somewhat fortuitously when he went down under Jason Dodd's clumsy challenge. Zohar appeared to snatch the ball from Dyer, Palace's regular penalty-taker, but according to their manager, Steve Coppell, Dyer left it to Zohar because he was suffering from an ankle injury. "Bruce was not confident that he could hit the ball with enough power," he said. "So Zohar stepped up. Unfortunately he missed it."
Zohar had come on the field midway through the second half as a substitute for Neil Shipperley, whose 62nd-minute equaliser had raised Palace's hopes of securing their first home win since victory over Wolves in the First Division play-offs in May.
Palace have been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks and their patchwork team did well to get back into the match after Matthew Oakley had given Southampton the lead six minutes before the interval. Dodd's cross from the right did not appear to pose any threat but Oakley volleyed it first time into the net from the edge of the area.
Palace should have been ahead by that stage, having spurned two excellent early opportunities. After only five minutes, Dyer just beat Jones to the ball after Shipperley had headed down a cross by Andy Linighan, but his shot hit the far post and bounced away to safety. Four minutes later, Dyer left Claus Lundekvam standing with a neat turn but with only Jones to beat he pulled his shot wide.
With Rory Ginty, a young winger, playing wide on the right, Palace had only two men in midfield and Jamie Fullarton and Simon Rodger struggled to exert any sort of control. Andy Roberts, who started as a wing-back, moved into midfield on the hour and his intelligent prompting sparked the home side's best spell.
The equaliser came when Shipperley bundled the ball home at the far post after Dean Gordon had flicked on Rodger's corner. Shipperley almost scored a second two minutes later when his shot flew just past the post, but after the former Southampton striker went off injured in the 71st minute the home side rarely threatened.
Southampton might have snatched victory in the closing stages. Kevin Davies, who had come on as a substitute, created more opportunities in his 25 minutes on the pitch than the rest of the Southampton side had managed in the whole match. One exhilarating run by Davies ended with a crisp shot which was well held by Kevin Miller and Paul Warhurst headed another effort off the line.
Davies, however, was the only Southampton forward who posed any major threat. Matthew Le Tissier drifted in and out - mostly out - and David Hirst rarely found the space in which to work. Like Palace, Southampton appear to have a struggle ahead if they are to stay in the Premiership come next May.
Crystal Palace: (5-3-2): Miller; Roberts, Linighan, Warhurst, Hreidarsson, Gordon; Ginty, Rodger, Fullarton (Burton 59); Dyer, Shipperley (Zohar, 71). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Emblen, Quinn.
Southampton: (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Monkou, Lundekvam, Benali; Oakley (Slater, 85), Richardson, Palmer, Le Tissier (Williams, 81), Hirst, Ostenstad (Davies, 65). Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Hughes.
Referee: P E Alcock (Redhill).