Football: Palace show of strength

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The Independent Online
(First Edition) Alan Smith, the Crystal Palace manager, believes his team have inherited some of the Crazy Gang spirit of their Selhurst Park tenants, Wimbledon.

Tonight the Palace manager will be asking his players to prove it against the Dons themselves in their Coca-Cola Cup third-round tie.

Palace will be going into the unfamiliar away-team dressing room on their own ground, because they came out of the hat second in the draw. Smith is treating the game like a proper away fixture, with the team staying away in an hotel last night and travelling by coach to the game. Smith puts his team's refusal to lie down this season, following a heavy reverse at home to Liverpool on the opening day, to commitment. He said: 'Last year we were promoted because we were mentally stronger than the other teams in division one.

'That has always come through in teams I've had. Sometimes players get in the Premiership, and they think they have to do things differently. They think they have to pass the ball around all the time.

'But at the end of the day it all comes down to commitment. Look at Manchester United - look at Paul Ince, the best midfielder of his type in the country. That goal he set up against Barcelona, when he stormed through two tackles - that is exactly the sort of commitment I mean - the sort Wimbledon always show.

'And to be fair to my lads, they have been showing it. Even against Newcastle here, when we lost, their commitment was fantastic. If you've got that, then eventually, the skill will come through.

'Commitment has always been Wimbledon's strength. They've always had people in their dressing room who've embodied that. They've had it for years - ever since they were non-League. Whether it is as strong now remains to be seen.'

Palace expect to be unchanged, but injury-riddled Wimbledon hope Vinnie Jones - the embodiment of their spirit - recovers from the injury which caused him to miss the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool. New signings Alan Reeves and Efan Ekoku are both cup-tied.

Manchester City, fresh from their 5-2 hammering of Tottenham, are at Queen's Park Rangers where they won 2-1 with nine men in the Premiership two weeks ago, when Andy Dibble and Richard Edghill were sent off. Rangers' 4-2 defeat at Norwich on Saturday meant that they have won only two games out of their last 11.

Dave Bassett, the Sheffield United manager, prepared his side for their tie against Bolton, home-and-away conquerors of Ipswich in the previous round, by warning his players: 'I'm looking for men, not mice.'

Bassett was left furious by his team's display in the 3-1 home defeat to Luton, a performance that led to Blades' fans demanding the sacking of the board after the match.

Liverpool are likely to name the side which beat Wimbledon for their home game against Stoke, Jamie Redknapp continuing in place of the injured Jan Molby; while the Stoke manager, Lou Macari, must choose between Paul Peschisolido and Wayne Biggins up front.

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