Football: Palace need to seal defence

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3

Being the country's leading scorers is all very well, but if Crystal Palace are to maintain their promotion challenge in the First Division they will also have to learn how to defend.

For the second Saturday in succession Palace's free-scoring forwards put their team back in the game after their defence had conceded two goals in the first 20 minutes. Seven days earlier Dave Bassett's team had held out for a 2-2 draw at Bolton, but here they could find no way back after Geoff Thomas celebrated his first full game after more than a year out with injury by scoring the winning goal against his former club.

Wolves were well organised, worked hard and took their chances well, but in truth they were handed victory on a plate. Steve Corica took advantage of gaping holes on the left of the home defence to put them 2-0 up, while Thomas headed home an inswinging corner from only five yards out as Chris Day stood rooted to his line. Perhaps the England Under-21 goalkeeper had been recalling his part in the first goal, when he charged out of his penalty area but failed by a distance to beat Corica to Robbie Dennison's through ball.

At 2-0 down Palace had replaced Leif Andersen, nominally their left-sided defender but nowhere to be seen when Corica broke through. Andersen himself had started in place of Robert Quinn, who had been looking vulnerable in recent games. Andersen's replacement was Dean Gordon, who, returning after several months out with injury, immediately brought some stability to the home defence.

With Bolton (three points from their last four games) and Palace (one from two) both slipping up over the last two weeks, the way is open for the likes of Wolves to launch a promotion challenge.

On this evidence they lack some flair, but Mark McGhee's men could not be faulted for their commitment. Steve Bull led by example, for although he rarely looked like scoring he was always looking to deny Palace's defenders time on the ball.

The day, though, belonged to Thomas. It has been a long road back for the man who led Palace to the 1990 FA Cup final and the winning goal here was a just reward for his perseverance.

Goals: Corica (9) 0-1; Corica (14) 0-2; Veart (51) 1-2; Dyer (54) 2-2; Thomas (61) 2-3.

Crystal Palace (3-4-1-2): Day; Tuttle, Roberts, Andersen (Gordon, 26); Edworthy (Ndah, 77), Hopkin, Veart, Muscat; Freedman; Dyer, Shipperley. Substitute not used: Trollope.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Stowell; Emblen, Atkins, Venus; Thompson, Corica, Osborn, Thomas, Dennison; Bull, I Roberts. Substitutes not used: Goodman, Van der Laan, Smith.

Referee: R Poulain (Huddersfield).

Man of the match: Hopkin.

Attendance: 20,655.

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