Football: Persistence of Palace

Derby County 0 Crystal Palace 0 Attendance: 26,590
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The Independent Online
Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace manager, reflected on an outstanding defensive display and attempted to explain how his players can have a better away record than Manchester United, yet still be viewed as relegation candidates. "We seem to have more of something when we play away," Coppell said. "I don't know how to define it, but it's called spunk."

That must have been what Derby were lacking then because they had the better players, most of the possession and all but a couple of the goalscoring chances, yet they rarely matched Palace for steel and guile.

Palace last won six matches ago, but they could not have been expected to attack their way back to victory with their leading forward Neil Shipperley and the Italians Attilio Lombardo and Michele Padovano all out injured. Even half the men on duty yesterday started the match as walking wounded.

So the responsibility fell on Jim Smith's high-flying Rams to get forward. They did just that, but they failed to take their chances in the first half thanks to some superb goalkeeping from Kevin Miller and a touch of misfortune when Francesco Baiano shot against the crossbar and Chris Powell's follow-up was brilliantly saved.

"Our finishing was poor," conceded Smith, "and we got more frustrated as the game went on. That led to some long-range shots. But we still played some superb football and lacked nothing in effort."

Palace had their best phase at the start of the second half and went within inches of scoring from an Andy Linighan header, but soon returned to their shut-out mode and thwarted Derby's attack with a defence led with confidence and conviction by Andy Roberts in the middle.

The Derby substitute Ron Willems and the impressive Paulo Wanchope both went close to nicking a late winner, but a home win would have been too cruel by then.