Football: Dyer keeps hopes alive

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Wolves 0 Crystal Palace 2 Hopkin 31, Dyer 55 Attendance: 24,350 Palace's determination to avoid the turmoil of the play-offs was incentive enough to produce a thoroughly workmanlike performance at Molineux yesterday. It was one that also served to underline just how much Wolves' new messiah, their manager Mark McGhee, must still do to restore yesteryear's grandeur.

Seldom did Wolves disturb their opponents' shape or composure, although Palace hearts missed a beat when Dean Richards' header bounced off the foot of Nigel Martyn's left post just on half-time. By then, though, Palace were already a goal ahead. Their skipper, David Hopkin, put pressure on Simon Osborn on the edge of the Wolves area, stole possession and strode through a defensive hole to stick his shot under Mike Stowell for the opener.

There were early signs that Mark Williams might prove a torment to the visitors, but the early skirmishes took their toll on him and he limped off injured after only 26 minutes to be replaced by Don Goodman. At the other end, Bruce Dyer also threatened to be a handful when as early as the 12th minute he stole possession from Richards only to fluff the chance. But it was his ability to hold the ball and turn his marker (the unfortunate Richards) that was a decisive factor in tilting the balance in Palace's favour.

With only Dougie Freedman to keep him company in the danger area, Dyer's presence and ability to brush aside most challenges shaped Palace's second goal in the 57th minute. Andy Roberts, who had more than played his part with a couple of first-half goal-line clearances, thumped in a shot from 25 yards. Richards blocked it and, as the ball spun goalwards, Dyer was first to get to it and head over the out-rushing Stowell.

The least Wolves could do was to save some face, as the game was now beyond their grasp. The urgency that had been missing earlier appeared in bursts but Palace's defence had by now drawn the sting from the home attack. Steve Bull was starved of the kind of specialist service he thrives on. Apart from the odd flash, neither Osborn, Steve Corica nor Mark Rankine were able to provide it. Behind them only Neil Emblen and a blameless Stowell looked the part, but that midfield vacuum was where Palace laboured most fruitfully.

The arrival of Dave Bassett has propelled Palace back to the brink of Premiership status but even the most fervid of the faithful will admit that they will need new blood if they are to avoid a repeat of their yo- yo act. His Molineux counterpart, McGhee, can reputedly call on the resources Wolves need to freshen their ambitions. Right now, however, he has to concentrate on avoiding relegation - still a mathematical possibility.