Football: No happy returns for Taylor

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. .1

Southend United. 0

A pair of errors and a piece of opportunism cost Peter Taylor a happy return to Selhurst Park last night when Crystal Palace defeated his Southend side with a last-minute goal.

As time ticked away, John Salako was allowed the space to cross from the right, Southend's goalkeeper, Paul Sansome, allowed the ball to elude him and Simon Rodger, who brought added energy to the Palace attack for the last 15 minutes, knocked in the loose ball.

'We're disappointed, because we deserved at least a point,' Taylor said with resignation. 'But what can you say when the lads know they've made a mistake?'

His opposite number, Alan Smith, admitted Southend deserved something, but he was not complaining after his side had collected nine points from three games to go four points clear at the top of the First Division.

''I do feel sorry for them, but I can honestly say that this is the first time as manager that we got points we didn't deserve,' he said. He was worried in the later stages that the game could have gone either way and he cited Ricky Otto, one of the departed manager Barry Fry's gifts to Southend, as the main threat. 'He was capable of winning it on his own,' he said.

It was Smith's Mr Reliable, Rodger, who stole the game for him in front of Palace's biggest crowd of the season, 18,255. 'He always was a player you could rely on to get into the right place at the right time,' he said.

The home fans had to suffer as the rigours of two games in three days took their toll. Southend had 'done their homework', in Smith's words, and after Chris Armstrong had rattled their crossbar in the third minute, they pushed up to make life difficult for Palace.

Otto, twice, Gary Jones and Phil Gridelet could all have put Southend ahead, but Armstrong spurned clear heading chances.

The new, tougher Palace, who work hard to grind out results, look a good bet to go straight back to the Premiership. Southend's fine effort last night suggests they may have promotion potential, too.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Martyn; Shaw, Young, Coleman, Gordon; Bowry, Southgate, Newman, Salako; Armstrong, Williams (Rodger, 74). Substitutes not used: Osborn, Woodman (gk).

Southend United (4-3-3): Sansome; Poole, Edwards, Bodley, Powell; Hunt, Gridelet, K Jones; G Jones (Mooney, 58), Lee, Otto. Substitutes not used: Bressington, Royce (gk).

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).

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