Football: Fan puts Bradford to flight

Crystal Palace 1 Bradford City 0
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THE MORE Crystal Palace's plight worsens - they are pounds 22m in debt and were forced to farm out five players on loan last Thursday on transfer deadline day - the more this corner of south-east London is becoming a graveyard for Division One's promotion hopefuls.

Three weeks ago Steve Coppell's side beat Ipswich and yesterday his collection of fringe players, plus one debutant in David Woozley, further dented Bradford's promotion prospects. Sunderland visit here on Easter Monday and they cannot say they have not been warned.

It was Fan Zhiyi's 30-yard goal, three minutes into first-half injury time, that inflicted a second defeat in four games on the Bantams. In keeping with a poor Bradford performance, goalkeeper Gary Walsh was slow to get down to the shot. They were just as inept in attack as Lee Mills and the new signing Dean Windass, with 36 league goals between them this season, failed to get a shot on target. Even the former Manchester United winger, Lee Sharpe, signed on loan from Leeds via Sampdoria last week, could not trouble Palace's goalkeeper, Kevin Miller.

Coppell was able to field only half the team he picked for the win against Grimsby last week because of the enforced trimming of his squad, and his options were further restricted when he left the Yugoslav pair of Sasa Curcic and Gordan Petric out of consideration on "humanitarian grounds" because of the Nato attacks on their homeland over the past few days.

Coppell revealed the particular impact of the conflict on Curcic, whose father was standing on his balcony in Serbia when he was blown back into his flat by the force of a nearby explosion. Curcic, however, may still find himself in trouble with Uefa for walking around the pitch before the game with a placard calling on Nato to stop the bombing. Uefa frowns on political protests by footballers; two years ago European football's ruling body fined Liverpool's Robbie Fowler for expressing his sympathy with striking Liverpool dockers with a message on a T-shirt.

Fan went close on several other occasions and, six minutes before half- time, the Chinaman put a header just wide. Then, eight minutes after the break, with Clinton Morrison sending in a cross from the right, it took an intervention from Bradford's Darren Moore at the near post to deny Fan a second goal.

The failure to increase their lead could not take the gloss off a display that Coppell called "the best performance of the season".

"I thought we deserved to win - we created a lot of chances," he said. "I was delighted with the players left after the transfers. When people leave it's another opportunity for other players."

The Bradford manager, Paul Jewell, said: "We're disappointed by the way we started and played, but there is still a lot of football to be played this season."

Goal: Fan Zhiyi (45) 1-0.

Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Miller; Burton, C Moore, Woozley; Austin, Mullins, Foster, Fan Zhiyi, Sun Jihai; McKenzie, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Carlisle, Frampton, Martin.

Bradford (4-4-2): Walsh; Todd (Blake, 57), Jacobs, D Moore, Westwood; Lawrence, McCall, Whalley, Beagrie; Windass (Sharpe, 57), Mills. Substitute not used: O'Brien.

Referee: J Robinson (Hull).

Bookings: Crystal Palace: Moore, Woozley, Morrison. Bradford: Westwood.

Man of the match: Fan Zhiyi.

Attendance: 15,626.