Football: Palace snatch precious gems

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. .3

Ipswich Town. . .1

ONLY arithmetic and the improbability of an Oldham revival now stand between Crystal Palace and Premier League football next season. A display of much character and even some style brought the Eagles three rare goals and three precious points.

Palace's more pressing needs were immediately apparent. They launched themselves into the game with a vigour that left their visitors bemused. And within 10 minutes Ipswich were more than bemused, they were two down.

Richard Shaw and Simon Rodger were tearing into Ipswich's right flank and had already caused a deal of grief before they won a corner in the seventh minute. Clive Baker dropped the cross under challenge from Chris Coleman and Eric Young was well placed to prod Palace into the lead.

A minute later Chris Armstrong struck the inside of Baker's post, and he also had a plausible penalty appeal turned down before he finally - and deservedly - made it on to the score sheet. Eddie McGoldrick, showing a tenacity one might expect from a man who had spent the week with Jack Charlton's Irish side, robbed the Ipswich defence, battled to the byline and rolled over a low cross. Baker, who was still struggling to pick up the pace of the game, fumbled the ball and Armstrong, despite having fallen over, knocked it over the line with his head.

Two-goal leads are not, of course, inviolable. England's mid- week experience must have flitted through Palace's minds, and such thoughts gained ominous substance when Ipswich pulled back a goal in the 36th minute. It was a strike not unworthy of Dennis Bergkamp: a well-constructed move culminated in Jason Dozzell knocking the ball down for David Gregory. The midfielder turned smartly before bending a shot beyond Nigel Martyn's dive.

The goal gave Ipswich momentary hope but half-time arrived before they could build upon it.

Palace, who early on had been obliged to replace the limping Coleman with Paul Williams, regained the initiative after the interval. And it was Williams who was behind much of their best work. On the hour he had a fierce shot well saved and a minute later it was his fine through ball that set up McGoldrick to score.

Ipswich, whose season has toppled into free fall (they have won just one of their last 14 games) could offer little in reply. They sent on both their substitutes but the Premier League's erstwhile draw specialists seemed to have forgotten even that minor art.

Palace ended the game with a flurry of chances and then a well- deserved lap of honour. The cheers may have been of relief but they were no less resounding for all that.

Crystal Palace: N Martyn; R Shaw, G Southgate, C Coleman (P Williams, 20 mins), E Young, A Thorn, J Humphrey, G Thomas, C Armstrong, S Rodger, E McGoldrick. Subs not used: D Gordon, A Woodman (gk). Manager: S Coppell.

Ipswich Town: C Baker; D Gregory, P Whelan, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, S Palmer (S Whitton, 72 mins), S Milton (B Genchev, 72 min), J Dozzell, C Kiwomya. Sub not used: A Petterson (gk). Team Manager: M McGiven.

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).

Goals: Young (1-0, 7 mins); Armstrong (2-0, 8 mins), Gregory (2-1, 36 mins); McGoldrick (3-1, 61 mins).