Football: Positive Palace rewarded

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The Independent Online
Everton. . . . . . . 0

Crystal Palace. . . .2

STEVE COPPELL was his lucid, articulate, intelligent self: 'We've had a lot of defensive injuries; had to push people around. John Salako at left-back, for instance. Today I thought sod it, we'll go for it. We've got pace up front. We went 2-0 up when it should have been three of four. It was an unfamiliar feeling, but very welcome.'

If you do have to wait for your first win until almost October, then Goodison Park is one of the better places in which to succeed. This was one of the most positive displays seen from Palace since their return to the senior class, a display that will add to Palace's prestige and confidence at a time when they seemed to be selling up.

Chris Armstrong rightly won all the attention with two goals and three near misses. Four goals in two matches is making him appear a pounds 1m bargain; his speed, strength, size and accuracy confirm, at 21, a formidable proposition as Howard Kendall wrily acknowledged Armstrong seems to have added weight and height since his days at Wrexham from whom Millwall plucked him for pounds 75,000. Kendall admitted: 'We'd tried to take him on loan from Millwall last season after good reports.' Coppell explained: 'It's partly the innocence of youth. He was practising diving headers yesterday and not many pros will do that on a Friday morning.'

Armstrong's is a romantic story: Newcastle-born, he was fostered out to a Wrexham family who could have shed a private tear or two when they saw their little lad burst forth a champion. Terry Yorath will be very interested.

It was not all Armstrong. The admirably balanced Simon Osborn and the ranging Gareth Southgate ensured that Geoff Thomas was hardly missed; Paul Williams (how could Wednesday let him go?) and Salako were two hawks on the flanks while Eddie McGoldrick must be the best defending attacker in the Premier League.

Nigel Martyn's point-blank tip-over from Gary Ablett's near-post volley was the shut-out for Everton. Kendall had to try to smile. Peter Beardsley has a pulled hamstring, while Paul Rideout, who had a pain-killing injection in the shoulder before the start, followed by a miss from five yards, had to be substituted at half-time.

Everton had territorial supremacy (11 corners to three) and fired in probably three times as many shots and yet Martyn was stretched only the once. Coppell made a suggestion: 'Like ourselves, they seem to be struggling at home. Other Premier League teams are finding it easier to win away. It may be that teams are defending that much deeper because of the back-pass.' The lucid, articulate, etc Coppell then lost his kudos by refusing to let his players talk to newspapers. Is there one Premier rule for television and another for print?

Goals: Armstrong (8) 0-1; Armstrong (18) 0-2.

Everton: Southall; Harper, Hinchcliffe, Ebbrell, Watson, Ablett, Beagrie, Beardsley (Jackson, 58), Rideout (Johnston, h/t), Cottee, Horne. Substitute not used: Kearton (gk).

Crystal Palace: Martyn; Humphrey, Sinnott, Southgate, Young, Osborn, Williams, Coleman, Armstrong, Salako, McGoldrick. Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Patterson, Collymore.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).