Football: Armstrong's double: Oxford given finishing lesson

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The Independent Online
Oxford United . . .1

Crystal Palace. . .3

WHEN it comes to scoring goals, there is no substitute for quality. Oxford United were a match for Crystal Palace at the Manor Ground yesterday in every respect other than the art of finishing.

Top-class goals by Chris Armstrong and John Salako gave Palace victory and strengthened their position at the top of the First Division on a day when nearly all their rivals dropped points.

Hundreds of supporters were locked out of the ground and inside Oxford made the most of what was almost a cup-tie atmosphere. Denis Smith's team easily had the better of the first half, forcing eight corners to Palace's two, but they wasted at least half a dozen good openings. Half of them fell to Jim Magilton, who scorned the best when he shot straight at Nigel Martyn from eight yards.

Palace soaked up the punishment well and bounced off the ropes to threaten several times before taking the lead two minutes before the interval. Paul Williams chipped a clever through-ball into the path of Armstrong, who sped clear to shoot past Philip Whitehead while the Oxford defenders were still apparently waiting in vain for an offside flag.

Eric Young had been a rock at the heart of the Palace defence and his temporary departure with a head injury early in the second half prompted a quick change of fortunes. Alex Dyer equalised against his old club after 50 minutes when Anton Rogan headed back Joey Beauchamp's cross at the far post and in the next three minutes

Oxford were denied by desperate clearances from Richard Shaw and Dean Gordon.

After 55 minutes, however, Salako restored Palace's lead with a scorching right-foot shot from the edge of the area after Oxford had failed to clear Bobby Bowry's cross. When Young returned to the field order was fully restored, although Gordon had to clear off the line from Dyer before Armstrong scored Palace's third in injury time, lashing home an unstoppable drive from 25 yards after Simon Rodger had dispossessed Les Robinson.

Oxford United (4-4-2): Whitehead; Robinson, Elliott, Ford, Rogan; Beauchamp (Allen, 87), Lewis, Magilton, Dyer; Cusack, Byrne (Saunders, 61). Substitute not used: Reece (gk).

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Martyn; Shaw, Young, Coleman, Gordon; Bowry, Southgate, Newman, Salako; Armstrong, Williams (Rodger, 84). Substitutes not used: Osborn, Woodman (gk).

Referee: D Frampton (Poole).