Football: Another bad day at the Palace

Crystal Palace 1 Portsmouth 2
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How quickly fortunes can change. Just as this match turned in the space of seven calamitous minutes for Crystal Palace, so Dave Bassett's team have seen their chances of returning to the Premiership slump alarmingly in the last two months.

Early in November Palace were second in the First Division, the country's leading scorers and an apparently sound bet for an automatic promotion place. Yet Saturday's defeat at Selhurst Park completed a 10-match run in which they have taken just seven points and won only once. Eighth in the table, they now trail the leaders, Bolton Wanderers, by 18 points.

Added to that are worrying disciplinary problems, including a Football Association charge following a mass brawl at Norwich last month. Three players have been suspended in recent weeks and on Saturday it needed the intervention of colleagues to separate Andy Roberts and Dean Gordon when the two Palace players squared up to each other in a row over responsibility for Portsmouth's second goal.

Bassett, who dismissed that incident as "just an emotional thing", said afterwards that he still believes Palace are "on our day, better than anything else in this division". Those days, however, have become few and far between and Bassett's numerous changes - the latest was to switch from a 3-5-2 formation to 4-3-3 - have failed to halt a sequence of defensive errors.

Portsmouth's goals, seven minutes apart early in the second half, were both headers from crosses which should have been cut out. Chris Day, the goalkeeper, stood rooted to his line as Lee Bradbury headed the first from close range and Andy Thomson gave Gordon the slip to score the second. Until Bradbury's goal, two minutes after Bruce Dyer had hit a post, Palace had seemed in command, thanks to Robert Quinn's controversial goal after 30 minutes. Roberts beat Portsmouth's normally well-drilled offside trap and although Neil Shipperley miscued from his cross, Quinn was on hand to score.

Terry Fenwick's team protested bitterly at the lack of an offside flag and the manager himself was banished from the touchline after offering his opinion to the referee. After the game Fenwick criticised all three officials and it was hard not to sympathise with him: if the Palace players had not been offside when the cross came in, Quinn surely was.

For Portsmouth, who recently beat Wolves at Molineux in the FA Cup, there is the prospect of a brighter future following two successive battles against relegation. They are well organised and in Bradbury and Paul Hall have forwards who are capable of troubling most defences.

Goals: Quinn (30) 1-0; Bradbury (55) 1-1; Thomson (62) 1-2.

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Day; Muscat, Edworthy, Tuttle, Gordon; Quinn, Roberts, Veart; Dyer (McKenzie, 79), Shipperley, Ndah (Freedman, 62). Substitute not used: Burton.

Portsmouth (3-5-2): Knight; Thomson, Awford, Cook; Durnin, Pethick, Hillier, McLoughlin, Simpson; Hall, Bradbury (Turner, 87). Substitutes not used: Dobson, Igoe.

Referee: A P D'Urso (Billericay, Essex).

Bookings: Palace Ndah, Veart, Freedman; Portsmouth Thomson, Cook.

Man of the match: Awford.

Attendance: 15,498.