Football: Palace make up for lost time

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Crystal Palace 3 Bradford City 1

How many defenders does it take to combat a frail-looking Brazilian striker who appears not to relish the cut and thrust of a winter afternoon in the Nationwide League?

For nearly half of Saturday's First Division game at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace appeared to think the answer was two full-backs, two central defenders and a sweeper. Edinho, signed by Bradford City for pounds 250,000 from the Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes, may have started the match as something of an unknown quantity, but it seemed to take Palace an inordinately long time to realise that the Brazilian's threat was minimal.

To be fair, just about the only support he received was from Chris Waddle, who was given a free role just behind the lone striker. The former England international produced many of the afternoon's best moments with his deft touches and imaginative passing, but was never going to provide Edinho with the physical support he needed.

However, once Palace had brought on a forward, George Ndah, for a defender, David Tuttle, the game was up for Bradford and three goals in 13 minutes midway through the second half enabled Dave Bassett to celebrate his first anniversary at Selhurst Park with a valuable win.

While Bradford are in desperate need of points at the bottom of the table, it was hard to see the sense of their ultra-defensive approach. Having taken the lead after four minutes when Waddle slipped through a hopelessly inadequate offside trap, Chris Kamara's team spent the next hour putting nine men behind the ball. Palace's defensive fragility was clear, yet it was not until the match was lost that Bradford committed more players to attack.

For Palace this was another important step on the road to recovering their free-scoring form of last autumn. A sequence of one win in 11 games either side of Christmas dented their hopes of earning an automatic promotion place, but this result followed a hard-earned victory at Queen's Park Rangers.

To his credit, Bassett has persevered with Palace's short passing game, which is not helped by the poor playing surface at Selhurst. In the first half, moves regularly broke down in the clinging midfield mud, though it was a different story after the interval as Palace started to use the flanks.

Two excellent crosses by David Hopkin and Dean Gordon set up simple finishes for Neil Shipperley and Ndah and it was left to Dougie Freedman to seal the victory after running on to a perfectly timed through-ball from the excellent Andy Roberts. It made you wonder what the score might have been had Palace got their tactics right earlier.

Goals: Waddle (4) 0-1; Shipperley (61) 1-1; Ndah (65) 2-1; Freedman (74) 3-1.

Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Nash; Edworthy, Tuttle (Ndah, 38), Muscat, Linighan, Gordon; Hopkin, Roberts, Veart; Freedman (Dyer, 86), Shipperley. Substitute not used: Quinn.

Bradford City (5-3-1-1): Schwarzer; Liburd, Mohan, Sas (Cowans, 69), Dreyer, Jacobs; Duxbury, O'Brien (Pinto, 69), Hamilton; Waddle; Edinho (Stallard, 53).

Referee: C T Finch (Bury St Edmunds)

Bookings: Crystal Palace Linighan, Muscat, Dyer; Bradford City Edinho.

Attendance: 14,844.

Man of the match: Roberts.