Crystal Palace 1
TERRY VENABLES was in his first managerial job when he guided Crystal Palace into the old First Division in 1979. Appointments at England, Australia, Spurs and Barcelona have all come and gone since, but he still describes promotion with Palace almost 20 years ago as "one of the best nights of my career".
This match gave a few clues to how Venables might organise the 1998 model to repeat the feat, in spite of long injury lists inherited from his luckless predecessor, Steve Coppell.
Injuries to key players such as Marc Edworthy and Michele Padavano have prompted Venables to make a clutch of forays into the market. "I'd like to get together a big squad to compete over a season," he commented, "so that the players have to scrap it out over places."
Venables has already signed the Australian teenager Nicholas Rizzo from Liverpool and Israeli David Masalem, although both were kept under wraps here. Two Argentinian Under-21 internationals, Pablo Rodriguez and Cristian Ledesma, will also be arriving shortly in a pounds 2m deal. And Venables revealed: "I've got two Chinese players arriving, hopefully at the end of next week. One is the captain of the Chinese team and the other is a left back. They cost around half a million each."
One of the players who might find his place under threat is the ultimate utility player, Paul Warhurst, whom Venables preferred as a central defender yesterday. He had a solid game and easily coped with Millwall's mainly aerial threat, although he will surely face a sterner test when the serious business begins next week against Bolton.
For creativity Venables will look to Attilio Lombardo and Sasa Curcic, who both provided glimpses of international class. Lombardo played midfield provider while Curcic made useful runs into the box to link with Bruce Dyer and Matt Jansen.
But at one point it looked as though Venables would only be granted a 10-minute viewing of the pounds 4m-rated Jansen when this friendly developed a distinctly ugly atmosphere. Jansen was clattered from behind by Gerard Lavin and a couple of punches were exchanged, followed by some mass jostling, before the referee restored order. Both managers were called to the touchline, resulting in Jansen and Lavin receiving an impromptu "sin-binning". The players returned for the second half.
Palace dominated much of the first half but their attacking shape was disrupted by the loss of Jansen and the ever-dependable Nigel Spink in the Millwall goal was only sporadically called into action. It took a sweetly struck Dyer goal to break the deadlock midway through the second half. The recalled Jansen provided a telling through-ball and Dyer easily outpaced the Millwall defence to stroke the ball into the top left-hand corner.
This sparked a spirited Millwall revival and some defensive mix-ups, reminiscent of the worst of Palace's season last year, almost cost the Eagles the game. Paul Shaw eventually got the equaliser, sliding the ball under Kevin Miller from close range.