Football: Palace kept sweating


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The Independent Online

Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Crystal Palace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

The agony that Crystal Palace thought was over when they went into this match with a five- point lead over Oldham has returned to torment them until the last kick of the Premier League season.

Despite dominating much of last night's disjointed contest at Maine Road, Palace could not get the goal that would have lifted them safe of Oldham's desperate last-gasp heroics.

They now need a point at Arsenal on Saturday to render Oldham's efforts against Southampton the same day irrelevant. If they fail, they will look back from the humbler surroundings of the First Division on missed chances that would have ended all the fretting.

Palace began by looking as though at least someone in the non-jubilant half of Manchester was going to find something to celebrate, even if it was only visitors from south London.

Chris Armstrong hooked a shot wide and Eddie McGoldrick had one tipped over the bar in an enterprising first few minutes.

Staccato would be the polite description for much of the rest of the game; the rhythm with which the linesmen's flags rose for offside decisions became almost metronomic and ruined any chance of a spectacle.

As the half went on, Geoff Thomas and McGoldrick put together a good move which unaccountably failed to attract the whistle and City had to scramble to get the ball clear. Gareth Southgate put a shot over the bar from a good position and Ray Ranson kept Thomas's effort out with his knee when Tony Coton was beaten.

City, previously reliant on Terry Phelan's scurrying runs from the back, revived a little after the break and Nigel Martyn made the best save of the match, arching back to deny Niall Quinn's header.

Palace finished the stronger, Armstrong blazing over with a clear view of goal and then forcing a save with a tumbling header. Southgate had a fierce drive tipped over as the precious goal refused to come.

Manchester City: Coton; Ranson, Phelan, McMahon, Curle, Vonk, Wright, Sheron (Kerr, 63), Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitutes not used: Simpson, Dibble (gk).

Crystal Palace: Martin; Shaw, Southgate, Williams, Young, Thorn, Humphrey, Thomas, Armstrong, Rodger, McGoldrick. Substitutes not used: Osborn, Gordon, Woodman (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).