Football: Fan eases the pain for troubled Palace

Crystal Palace 2 Morrison 44, Fan Zhiyi 46 Stockport County 2 Angell 4, 23 Half-time: 1-2 Attendance: 15,517
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The Independent Online
THE POISONED chalice of Palace was passed into the familiar hands of Steve Coppell for yesterday's draw with Stockport, but whether he will want to hold on to it for very long is highly dubious.

Yesterday the Crystal Palace chief executive, Jim McAvoy, revealed that he was on the verge of quitting and taking his money with him. With the former manager Terry Venables now just a very well-paid part-time consultant, the problems of the chairman, Mark Goldberg, are starting to appear insurmountable.

What Palace really need is a guardian angel - who they did not need yesterday was Brett Angell, who scored two first-half goals for Stockport which plunged Palace deeper into the mire. But if the money has dried up at least the passion is still there and the point was earned the hard way with goals a minute either side of the break from Clinton Morrison and Fan Zhiyi.

After the internal wranglings of the last week the recuperative powers of such a fightback should not be underestimated. Nor should the influence that Coppell will have back in charge of team affairs, albeit temporarily, for the third time following the change of jobs for Venables on Friday.

Coppell is well aware of the task facing him. "In terms of PR we've now hit rock-bottom and the only way is up. We've gone 19 games without a clean sheet, we have used 30 players, more than any other club in the league this season. We have to steady the ship," Coppell said.

That ship will be without Matt Jansen, the 21-year-old striker, who Coppell confirmed yesterday would be leaving the club "imminently". Without Jansen - who will cost one of a list of Premiership clubs chasing him pounds 5m - and the others that will have to go to square the books, Coppell will struggle not to be drawn into the relegation fight.

It has all become too much for McAvoy, who described his position yesterday as "untenable" and announced that he would be withdrawing his seven-figure investment from the club.

All of this detracted from matters on the pitch, which was a good thing for Palace fans as their team started off as badly as they had finished in the 3-0 humiliation at West Brom the week before.

After four minutes Ian Moore's shot looked to have been cleared by David Tuttle's block but Angell's fortuitous deflection beat the stranded Kevin Miller.

Attilio Lombardo, making his first league appearance for nine games, provided some light in the gloom for the home side and his interchange with Lee Bradbury set up Nicky Rizzo but the wing-back's shot crept agonisingly past the post.

In the 23rd minute the misery intensified for Palace when Angell headed home Mike Flynn's cross. Stockport were enjoying their afternoon and had most of the play until the 44th minute when Morrison provided some much-needed cheer for the home support. A fine run by Rizzo down the left opened up the Stockport defence and Lombardo's header found Morrison all on his own in front of goal to put Palace back in the game.

From the re-start Rizzo was again the architect when his jinking run along the left flank was crudely stopped by Sean Connelly on the edge of the area. A free-kick by Italy's Lombardo, a header by China's Fan Zhiyi past Carlo Nash and the South Londoners had something to shout about at last.

Lombardo's lack of fitness started to show and Coppell chose to bring on Sasa Curcic, out of favour in the Venables regime, to replace the play- maker, but Palace could not unpick a well-organised Stockport defence.

In the dying seconds, Stockport came close to taking all three points when Martin McIntosh hit the post with the goal at his mercy. That would have been too cruel for Palace.