Football: No credit in clean sheets

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. . 0

Manchester City. .0

THE REST of the world goes on about how it admires the English game, but exactly which game is it referring to? Certainly not this one. Nil-nil it ended: that's nil imagination, nil entertainment.

In every department of the game these two sides were indivisible - aerial obsession, defensive efficiency, midfield leg power. There was even something slightly tedious about the genuine bravery of the two excellent goalkeepers. And whenever they were beaten there was always someone on the line to keep the sheet clean.

This season is not going the way Peter Reid, Manchester City's player-manager, envisaged, but for Crystal Palace it is worse. Steve Coppell's charges have still not given him a home win, and City were not about to oblige. It is not as if chances did not fall to both sides. Palace's forward line knows the route to goal, but Paul Williams set up Chris Armstrong in two good positions only to see one shot clear the bar and the other smothered by Tony Coton.

Palace's best efforts came from Chris Coleman. One back-header from a corner produced a fine reflex save from Coton; another, with Coton beaten, was headed off the line by Steve McMahon.

It didn't work for the visitors either. Niall Quinn was laying off headers all over the pitch, but inside the box he presented no danger. Simon Osborn headed one off the line, while another from Rick Holden's cross made straight for the chest of Nigel Martyn. Quinn might have earned a penalty when Eric Young appeared to shove him down, but the referee was not about to lighten the afternoon either.

The match was crying out for the intervention of Reid himself, who was a substitute, but even the veteran of (and victor in) many an unseemly scrap did not fancy it.

'You don't come to places like this and win by playing pure football,' he said afterwards. They didn't play pure football and they still didn't win. 'If we had more subtlety and culture in our crosses we may have snatched it,' reckoned Coppell. Perhaps it is time for him to come off the bench too.

Crystal Palace: N Martyn; R Shaw, L Sinnott, G Southgate, E Young, S Osborn, P Williams, C Coleman, C Armstrong, J Salako, E McGoldrick (S Collymore, 75 min). Subs not used: G Thomas, P Heald (gk). Manager: S Coppell.

Manchester City: T Coton; I Brightwell, T Phelan, S McMahon, K Curle, A Hill, D White, G Flitcroft, N Quinn, F Simpson, R Holden. Subs not used: P Reid, M Sheron, M Margetson (gk). Player-manager: P Reid.

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe, Cornwall).