Football: Venables settles old scores

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace 4

Moore 6, Thomson og 57, Mullins 64, Foster 81

Portsmouth 1

Aloisi 42

Attendance: 20,188

CRYSTAL PALACE'S assistant manager Terry Fenwick did his utmost to rile his former colleagues at Portsmouth by saying before this match that theirs was a small-time club. That could have been seen as sour grapes, as he was sacked by Portsmouth last season as they headed for relegation. But on this evidence Fenwick was right.

However, his comments served only to heighten an antipathy between the two sides that led to a police presence that was double its normal size. The ill-feeling was started by Terry Venables, the Palace manager, leaving Portsmouth in January, to be followed swiftly by Fenwick. Venables had been supposed to bring glory to Portsmouth - instead, he left under such a cloud that Pompey fans greeted him yesterday with a series of provocative chants.

But for all the presence of the fearsome police force that surrounded Pompey's large contingent of fans, it was really Portsmouth's back four who needed the reinforced security. Venables himself declared that the fans' anger did not bother him: "I don't worry about that. I've been around long enough not to."

If Portsmouth had won, they would have leapfrogged Palace to the giddy heights of mid-table in the First Division, but it was hardly on the cards once Craig Moore arrived at the far post in the sixth minute to head home. It looked even less likely once left-back Fitzroy Simpson was sent off for use of the elbow on Dean Austin four minutes before half- time.

Yet soon after Portsmouth equalised, as John Aloisi pounced on a fumble by Fraser Digby to slot home, and an upset seemed possible. But Aloisi missed a golden chance to put his side ahead five minutes after the break and the ragged Portsmouth defence then crumbled.

It took only seven more minutes for Palace to go ahead,when Matt Jansen's shot took a deflection off Andy Thomson, and the result was beyond doubt after 64 minutes, when Jansen fed Hayden Mullins inside the area to turn and shoot past Alan Knight. Craig Foster completed the rout with a low, 25-yard drive nine minutes from time.

Undaunted by such a defeat, Portsmouth's vociferous fans stuck around afterwards and it required manager Alan Ball, prompted by the police, to have a word with the faithful to persuade them to go home.