Football: Palace guard bypassed by Williams

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. . . . . . . .1

Sheffield Wednesday. . .1

THE GOALS may be flowing in the Premier League, but the same cannot be said for some of the football. Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday preserved their unbeaten records at Selhurst Park last night but this was a poor advertisement for the English game's brave new world.

A match that featured two men who played in midfield for England last season might have been expected to produce a modicum of inventive football. The performances of Carlton Palmer and Geoff Thomas, however, said everything about the current paucity of creative midfield talent in England.

By the standards of those around them, neither played badly, and Thomas could take heart from the fact that he generally got the better of the man currently in possession of an England shirt. Palmer, indeed, suffered the indignity of being substituted midway through the second half, his manager, Trevor Francis, explaining after the game that he had brought on Chris Bart- Williams because 'something different was needed'.

Neither Thomas nor Palmer, however, had the vision or skill to dictate the course of a scrappy, spluttering encounter which Francis blamed on Palace's Route One approach. 'It's very hard to have an enjoyable game when one side are playing as direct as that and the other side are trying to play football,' he said.

Wednesday tried to play their neat passing game and generally had the better of the few chances created. Palace badly missed the injured John Salako, and, with Mark Bright feeling groggy for much of the second half after taking a blow to the head, their attack lacked shape and purpose.

Palace took the lead after 40 minutes, Eric Young heading home after Andy Thorn had flicked on Eddie McGoldrick's corner, and Wednesday might have gone home pointless but for an uncharacteristic error by Nigel Martyn, after 65 minutes.

The Palace goalkeeper dropped an apparently harmless corner by Bart-Williams and Paul Williams was on hand to tuck the ball home. Martyn, 'inconsolable' after the game according to his manager, Steve Coppell, nearly suffered further embarrassment 10 minutes later when he rushed out to meet the advancing David Hirst, whose lob bounced over the bar after landing in front of the empty net.

Crystal Palace: Martyn; Humphrey, Shaw, Southgate, Young, Thorn, Coleman, Thomas, Bright, Gordon, McGoldrick. Substitutes not used: Osborn, Sinnott, Heald (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Warhurst, King, Palmer (Bart-Williams, 63), Pearson, Shirtliff, Wilson, Hyde, Hirst, Williams, Worthington. Substitutes not used: Francis, Beresford (gk).

Referee: J E Martin (Alton, Hants).