Football: Precious point costly for Palace

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

THINGS WENT from bad to good then worse for Crystal Palace last night. Having fallen behind in the first half to a fine goal from Ade Akinbiyi, they then pulled level only to see their leading scorer, Clinton Morrison, limp off with a dislocated shoulder followed, two minutes from time, by their scorer on the night, Lee Bradbury, who was sent off for two bookable offences.

It all left Steve Coppell looking a little nonplussed afterwards, not least because the referee, Clive Wilkes, had taken the decision to visit both dressing-rooms beforehand to talk to the players, closing with the remark that he was "there to help them". Whereupon he handed out eight yellow cards, four to each side, as well as the red one.

"There were elements of inconsistency which shrieked out," said the Palace manager. "We've got bookings and we've got a sending-off which is going to harm us. We have a long-term consequence to pay for a second-half performance of passion which wasn't malicious."

Morrison's injury was due to a hereditary problem rather than any roughhouse tactics on Wolves part. When he was younger he had a problem with his left shoulder which, according to Coppell, "kept popping out", but this was his right shoulder, which Coppell described as "a real worry", as it may require an operation.

While Wolves look a shadow of the side that narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season - hardly surprising when you have sold your best defender, Dean Richards, and best forward, Robbie Keane - their away form has held together this season, with just one defeat, last Saturday, at Bramall Lane. They deserved their first-half lead.

Andy Linighan must have thought he had negated Akinbiyi's threat when he steered him on to his weaker left foot in the 43rd minute, but the pounds 3m former Bristol City striker dummied the former Arsenal defender before firing his first League goal for Wolves into the far corner of the net.

Soon after the resumption Steve Corica struck Fraser Digby's left-hand post and Wolves may well have been mulling over their misfortune when a few minutes later, in the 58th minute, Palace equalised. A throw-in was knocked down by Matt Svensson and it fell obligingly for Bradbury to sweep home his third goal of the season. Minutes later the former Palace player, Kevin Muscat, struck Digby's right-hand post.

Amid such a flurry of cards it was perhaps inevitable that Muscat should be booked, for a nasty tackle on Dean Austin. "Muzzy's an old favourite of ours," said Coppell. "But he seems to be a magnet for incidents. I like him, though. At the end of the game I shook his hand... called him worse than shit mind you."

Crystal Palace (3-4-1-2): Digby; Zhiyi, Linighan, Austin; Smith, Mullins, Thomson, Rodger (Rizzo, h-t); Morrison (Woozley, 60); Bradbury, Svensson. Substitutes not used: Frampton, Carlisle, Gregg (gk).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Stowell; Bazeley, Pollet, Curle; Muscat; Taylor (Robinson, 76), Osborn, Sedgley, Emblen; Akinbiyi, Corica. Substitutes not used: Simpson, Sinton, Naylor, Mautone (gk).

Referee: C R Wilkes (West Midlands).