Football: Saints pull up Palace

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Southampton . . . .1

Crystal Palace. . .0

LIKE characters struggling to clamber out of a mire, Southampton managed to arrest their slide into the relegation zone by pulling down Crystal Palace just as the Eagles had begun to draw clear.

The match itself was short on entertainment, invention and chances. Palace, deploying Eddie McGoldrick as a sweeper behind the back four, restricted Southampton to barely a couple in the first period. In the second minute, Nigel Martyn had to tip over Ian Dowie's deceptive header from Glen Cockerill's corner. And then, with the last touch of the half, Martyn clutched at Neil Maddison's point-blank snap-shot.

Palace, relying on breakaway attacks, squandered a gilt-edged chance in the 36th minute: Grant Watts, with time and space, stabbed the ball wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

On the first half's evidence, neither a goal nor fluent, constructive football seemed likely. But both arrived in the 50th minute. Perry Groves, collecting the ball in the centre circle, switched it to Micky Adams on the left. The flying full-back swept over an angled cross to the far post, where Maddison headed firmly past Martyn.

The Dell's celebrations were suitably muted as the Saints have contrived to surrender a lead in four of their last five matches. They failed to draw clear when Nicky Banger, through on goal, struck his shot against the Palace goalkeeper.

Palace finished the match battling for an equaliser that would have been no more than they deserved. Geoff Thomas capped a rousing display with an 87th minute rocket that left Flowers stranded but crashed back off the crossbar.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Dodd, M Adams, T Hurlock, R Hall, K Monkou, M Le Tissier, G Cockerill, I Dowie, N Maddison, P Groves (N Banger, 69 min). Subs not used: F Benali, I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.

Crystal Palace: N Martyn; J Humphrey, L Sinnott, C Coleman, G Watts (B Bowry, 77 min), A Thorn, G Ndah (D Gordon, 70 min), G Thomas, C Armstrong, S Rodger, E McGoldrick. Sub not used: A Woodman (gk). Manager: S Coppell.

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).

Goal: Maddison (1-0, 50 min).