Football / Ups and Downs: Royle's men survive the hard way while realistic Eastenders replace London rivals in Premier League next season

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The Independent Online
Arsenal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Crystal Palace. . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE Crystal Palace coach revved its engine outside Highbury, but Nigel Martyn, the visitors' keeper, showed little sign of breaking away from the melancholic huddle of camp followers. 'What's the hurry,' Martyn murmured, 'there's nowhere to go.'

Palace were down and out of the Premier League, victims of a spineless start to the season and a spirited finish by Oldham. A solitary success in their first 17 attempts condemned them. 'It was really too much to catch up,' Martyn said. 'We were surprised Oldham came back the way they did though, particularly against Aston Villa. It was that game that did us.'

Plus Ian Wright. Palace's former leading man needed only nine minutes to confirm the fears of those who had booed him before kick-off. A dart through the middle and low shot past Martyn settled the fate of long-standing friends. Memories of Denis Law sending Manchester United down must have filtered through Steve Coppell's mind.

Wright's strike encapsulates Palace's predicament. Resisting million-pound offers is hard for Coppell, juggling the resources of a club of average size. The task will be tougher now. Martyn, England's No 3, is widely respected, as are Thomas, Armstrong and McGoldrick. 'A week ago we weren't prey to vultures,' Coppell said. 'If we'd stayed up we would have had the finances to say 'thanks, but no thanks' to anybody. Well, almost anybody. But now it's a different kettle of fish.'

The desperation felt by the players was tinged with defiance. 'We all want to stay and help the club bounce back next season,' Eddie McGoldrick said. 'But the decision is out of our hands. It comes down to business and playing in a lower division puts more pressure on finances.' How the small band who follow the fortunes of Wimbledon, the Selhurst Park lodgers who remain to mock and knock the elite, must smile at this reversal.

The Eagles' vulnerability is exacerbated by the contract situation of three of Coppell's four defenders; Shaw, Young and Humphrey are all out of contract. The manager himself, though, is not the type to jump a ship he admits has 'run aground with me steering it'. 'I sign contracts to fulfil them,' he added.

Coppell was incensed at his team's strangely passionless first- half showing against an admittedly vibrant Arsenal. Eric Young eventually took up the challenge but he ran into a Tony Adams in his magnificent Wembley mood. Late goals by Paul Dickov and Kevin Campbell emphasised the divide.

Goals: Wright (9) 1-0; Dickov (82) 2-0; Campbell (89) 3-0.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Davis, Linighan, Adams, Carter (Dickov, 67), Wright (O'Leary, 89), Campbell, Merson, Parlour. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Crystal Palace: Martyn, Shaw (Gordon, 61), Southgate, Williams, Young, Thorn, Humphrey, Thomas, Armstrong, Rodger, McGoldrick. Substitutes not used: Osborn, Woodman (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).