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Sons add to Palace's problem

Thanks to a goal scored in front of a crowd of 338 in the Scottish Third Division on Saturday, troubled Crystal Palace are left with an unwanted record as they contemplate the unlikely prospect of saving their Premiership hides over their seven remaining matches.

Billy Wilson's 30th minute strike means Palace are the only club in England and Scotland without a home victory all season after Dumbarton achieved their first win in a year at Boghead.

It was a slightly hollow victory - opponents East Stirling were so stricken by injuries they could find only two players to sit on the substitutes' bench and one of those was nursing torn ankle ligaments and available to play only in dire emergencies - but they all count. Indeed, any cause for celebration, no matter how brief, is seen by the Sons as a welcome distraction.

Currently pounds 400,000 in debt, Dumbarton have come up with a plan for financial salvation that involves selling Boghead for pounds 1.5m and relocating to a new 3,500-seat stadium in the shadow of Dumbarton Castle.

But the new ground, projected to cost pounds 1.7m, depends on winning pounds 1m in grants from the Football Trust from a joint application with Scottish Second Division leaders Clydebank, with whom Boghead is shared. Clydebank, however, see their future - in common, coincidentally, with Palace's tenants, Wimbledon - in a move to Dublin.

Palace, meanwhile, have five chances left to avoid becoming the first team to go through an entire English season without a home win.

Hartlepool offer sanctuary to Argentinians

The North-east of England continues to have an implausible lure for South Americans, despite the less than happy experiences of Emerson, Branco and Faustino Asprilla in recent times.

But while it was not hard to understand how cash-rich Middlesbrough and Newcastle could seem attractive to itinerant Latins, the appeal of Hartlepool is somewhat less obvious.

Yet the Third Division club has managed to land not one but three - and they could not be more delighted after their new South American flavour enabled them to claim a point from the jaws of defeat against Cambridge on Saturday.

Trailing 3-1 with 19 minutes left, Hartlepool battled back to 3-3 thanks to two goals from Argentinian Gustavo di Lella, the first of them coming within seven minutes of his taking the field as a second-half substitute.

It was only the 24-year-old midfielder's second appearance in a 'Pool shirt but the goals were not his first in English football - back in January he scored a spectacular 30-yarder against Blackpool in the FA Cup... for Blyth Spartans.

Di Lella was playing for the non-Leaguers on loan after falling out with previous employers Darlington and is looking forward to happier times at Victoria Park. "I have not got much time to do well, but I want to get a contract for next season," he said. "I am still learning the style over here, especially how to kick people."

He had to escape from Argentina, he said, because so many clubs are in dire straits financially. "Players don't get paid, like I didn't at my last club," he said. "If you are from a poor background then it is very hard. Coming here is an escape from the problems."

An escape that appeals to others, too, it appears. Di Lella has now been joined in Mick Tait's squad by fellow Argentinians Marcelo Bruno and Gabriel Patricio, both of whom are pushing for first-team places.



Keith Peacock has enjoyed many proud moments during the career of his son, Gavin, but seeing QPR's former Chelsea forward pulling on a Newcastle shirt was particularly special.

"I'm Charlton through and through," said Keith, who spent 17 years as a player at The Valley, where he is now on the coaching staff, "but my family comes from the North-east and when Gavin was a lad, the second strip I bought him - after Charlton - was Newcastle.

Peacock Jnr's appetite for the game was whetted not so much by Geordie heroes as the superstars of the North American Soccer League, whom he witnessed at close quarters during Keith's time at Tampa Bay.

Back home he shone both on and off the field at school - obtaining 10 O-levels - but plumped for football and a career that began under Terry Venables at QPR, continued at Gillingham - his father signed him for "a bargain" pounds 40,000 - and blossomed eventually on Tyneside and then at Chelsea before Ruud Gullit's arrival brought a change in his fortunes.

"He has always been very self-disciplined and he's done very well," Keith said. "He overtook my goals record recently - I think he's got 110 to my 107. I pretend I'm upset about it but I'm delighted, really."


Fact and ction from the Sunday papers

After Ed de Goey's candid comments on life under Gianluca Vialli, the News of the World suggests that the Dutchman is not alone in feeling less than enamoured with Chelsea's new coach. They say Romanian international Dan Petrescu was not pleased at being substituted during the second half in Vicenza last Thursday and reports comments by a "Chelsea insider" that the wing-back could be "on his way in the summer."

Meanwhile, more ructions at Tottenham capture the People's attention. They say Norwegian goalkeeper Espen Baardsen is "furious" at being dumped in favour of fit-again Ian Walker and has changed his mind about signing an extension to his contract. Manchester United are said to be among those watching developments.

However, Baardsen is not among a list of names the Mirror says are surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane. Clive Wilson, David Howells, John Scales and Gary Mabbutt are.

David Jones, who was managing Stockport just a year ago, could be the next manager of Celtic, according to the People, who say he is at the top of a shortlist of candidates to replace Wim Jansen at the end of the season.

While the Mirror predicts that Bobby Robson will be installed as coach of PSV Eindhoven this week, the News of the World says a return to the English game is still a possibility. Newcastle, they believe, want him at St James' Park as director of football.

Georgi Kinkladze's projected pounds 6m move to Ajax has hit a snag, according to the People, who say Manchester City are demanding a sell-on clause in the deal, believing the Georgian ace is undervalued after playing in the First Division.

The News of the World reckons Atletico Madrid have targeted Gianluca Vialli as a future coach.




Andy Cole 22

(Manchester United)

John Hartson 22

(West Ham)

Chris Sutton 19


Dion Dublin 19


Michael Owen 19


Dennis Bergkamp 19


. . . and BAD BOYS


Red Yellow

Everton 4 63

Arsenal 3 62

Leeds 3 62

Bolton 5 58

Coventry 5 57

Chelsea 3 59


Mark Crossley

(Nottm Forest)

Getting injured was never a good idea - but for Forest's former No 1 goalkeeper the back problem that laid him low before Dave Bassett took over as manager dealt his career a major setback. Bassett bought not one but two keepers while 28-year-old Crossley was laid up and the Wales B international now finds himself competing with Switzerland's Marco Pascolo for a jersey Dave Beasant is in no mood to give up. Without a competitive appearance for nine months when he was finally declared fit in January, Crossley has sharpened up with a busy spell on loan with Millwall but seems still no closer to a Forest recall.

Neale Fenn


Seen by some as a natural successor to Teddy Sheringham, 21-year-old Neale has found his chances limited at White Hart Lane, where Jurgen Klinsmann and company offer coach Christian Gross many options. Capped at under- 21 level by the Republic of Ireland, he still has more than three years left on his Tottenham contract but may push instead for a permanent move to Norwich, where he is on loan until the end of the season and determined to prove his quality.

Gianluca Vialli could get mightily confused if Steve Cram's new Channel Four football job ever entails his standing pitch-side at Stamford Bridge. How would he tell which one was Tore Andre Flo when he wants to make a late substitution? Another problem for Graham Rix to sort out....

The First XI

The Premiership's 11 worst offenders

David Batty (Newcastle)

10 yellow, 2 red

Paul Williams (Coventry) 9-2

Dennis Wise (Chelsea) 10-0

Slaven Bilic (Everton) 7-3

Jamie Fullarton (Palace) 9-0

Stefano Eranio (Derby) 8-1

Gudni Bergsson (Bolton) 7-1

Graham Hyde (Sheff Wed) 8-0

John Moncur (West Ham) 8-0

Paul Scholes (Man Utd) 8-0

Steve Bould (Arsenal) 8-0