Football: Palace take free flight

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace. . . .2

Sheffield United. . .0

FLY with the Eagles, say the posters. If their defeat of struggling Sheffield United did not exactly represent advanced aerobatics, then, with their first home win of the season, Crystal Palace's fledglings at least made their first experimental flight from the nest.

Thus ended a remarkable week for the Londoners in which they twice visited Anfield, the first time to receive a 5-0 thrashing, the second to earn a merited replay in the Coca-Cola Cup.

You knew it was going to be Palace's day when, in only the fourth minute, they enjoyed a moment of extreme good fortune when the Blades striker Brian Deane beat Nigel Martyn with a glancing header. The ball struck the underside of the bar and appeared to cross the line but the unsighted referee, Howard King, waved play on. 'I'm glad we didn't have a Russian linesman,' quipped a relieved Steve Coppell after the game. He was alluding, of course, to Geoff Hurst's controversial second goal in the 1966 World Cup final.

This heralded a period of intense Sheffield pressure during which Martyn was kept constantly on his toes. 'We didn't deserve to be one up at half-time,' remarked the ever-honest Coppell, but that was indeed how the home team returned to the dressing-room, Chris Armstrong having made successful, if unconvincing, contact with a Chris Coleman cross in the 42nd minute.

The second half was a different story as Palace threw off their shackles and Armstrong, Coleman and George Ndah all went close. Enterprise gained its reward when Gareth Southgate sent a rasping drive past Alan Kelly from 20 yards. In a week of pay cuts at Selhurst Park it was the kind of goal to justify a bonus.

Crystal Palace: N Martyn; J Humphrey, R Shaw, G Southgate, B Young, A Thorn, S Osborn (B Bowry, 80 min), G Ndah, C Armstrong, C Coleman, E McGoldrick. Subs not used: G Watts, A Woodman (gk). Manager: S Coppell.

Sheffield United: A Kelly; C Bradshaw (A Littlejohn, 69 min), D Barnes, J Gannon, J Pemberton, P Beesley, K Gage (A Cork, 71 min), P Rogers, J Hoyland, B Deane, G Hodges. Sub not used: K Veysey (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Referee: H King (Mid Glamorgan).

Goals: Armstrong (1-0, 42 min); Southgate (2-0, 75 min).