Football: Palace face threat of unwanted place in history books

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace 0

Leeds United 2

There may still be three months of the season to go, but Crystal Palace fans are beginning to wonder whether their team may be heading for an unwanted place in the record books.

No team in the history of the Football League or Premiership has gone a whole season without winning a single home fixture. Palace, however, have now failed to win any of their first 11 home games, which have produced seven defeats and four draws. They have eight matches at Selhurst Park left.

On Saturday's dismal evidence, Palace will be hard pushed even to equal the worst home record in the English game's history, held jointly by five clubs. Loughborough (1899-1900, Second Division), Notts County (1904-05, First Division), Arsenal (1912-13, First Division), Rochdale (1931-32, Third Division North) and Blackpool (1966-67, First Division) all managed just one home victory in a season.

What is most perplexing for Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, is that his previously sound defence has suddenly begun to leak goals. As in their previous home game against Everton, Saturday's match was all over for Palace after 13 minutes as they conceded two sloppy goals.

Rod Wallace was unmarked as he ran on to Gary Kelly's through ball, while tame challenges by Valerien Ismael and Andy Roberts gave Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink the chance to score from 25 yards, thanks partly to a deflection off Andy Linighan.

"If we continue to do sloppy things like that, then we'll just get more of the same punishment," Coppell said. "We've got to tighten it up at the back."

Palace are sorely missing Paul Warhurst, who had been a steadying influence in defence before suffering a stress fracture of the leg. Meanwhile Andy Roberts and Marc Edworthy, who shared the sweeper's role earlier in the season, have both been needed in midfield as Palace's injury problems show no signs of improving.

Without Attilio Lombardo, Michele Padovano and Neil Shipperley, Palace looked desperately short of ideas in attack. Bruce Dyer did not receive the service to feet which he needs, while Tomas Brolin rarely got far enough forward to make any impact against his former club.

It was all too easy for Leeds, for whom Lucas Radebe was a tower of strength. Having started in midfield, where he had Brolin under his thumb, the South African was a rock in central defence for the last half hour.

While Wallace and Hasselbaink were always a threat, the other player to take the eye was Bruno Ribeiro. The Portuguese midfielder was a bundle of creative energy and looked a more accomplished player than his vastly more expensive colleague, David Hopkin.

Goals: Wallace (7) 0-1; Hasselbaink (13) 0-2.

Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Miller; Smith, Ismael, Linighan, Hreidarsson, Gordon; Edworthy, Roberts, Brolin; Dyer, Bent. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Quinn, Emblen, Boxall, Ginty.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Kelly, Wetherall, Molenaar (Haland, 61), Robertson; Hopkin, Radebe, Ribeiro, Kewell; Wallace, Hasselbaink (Matthews, 86). Substitutes not used: Bowyer, Beeney (gk), Halle.

Bookings: Crystal Palace: Hreidarsson, Bent, Gordon. Leeds: Haland.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Man of the match: Radebe.

Attendance: 25,248.