Football: Wolves miss Keane's bite

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The Independent Online
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Crystal Palace 0

Attendance: 23,643

PERHAPS THIS result should have been obvious from the start, as between them these sides have only suffered one defeat in their last 26 games.

While Crystal Palace's incredible revival goes on, however, extending their own run to 10 games without defeat despite being pounds 23m in debt, this point barely strengthened Wolves' play-off ambitions. On the day of the Grand National, this mediocre draw was very much a case of also-rans.

And if Wolves are to confirm their place in the top six, they will need their one thoroughbred, Robbie Keane, but the Republic of Ireland striker is on international duty at the World Youth Championship in Nigeria and will be missing until the last two weeks of the season.

Wolves' assistant manager, John Ward, did not want to dwell on Keane's absence, although without their 16-goal top-scorer they only managed to force Kevin Miller into three saves, the best coming with only two minutes left in the first half.

Kevin Muscat sent in a deep cross to the far post and Carl Robinson, ironically a Keane lookalike, failed to produce a finish worthy of the teenager and saw his close-range volley blocked by Miller with his feet.

Miller, the hero in the draw with the prospective champions Sunderland on Easter Monday, was not as busy as his manager, Steve Coppell, had feared. Coppell was "more wary of coming to Molineux than some other places we've been to recently". One reason was the presence of "Wolves' personality players", although most of them suffered sudden personality bypasses.

Miller was called into action after only three minutes as Muscat let fly from 25 yards but, although the goalkeeper spilled the initial shot, he gathered at the feet of Neil Emblen.

Muscat, who found plenty of space down the right flank, and Emblen formed two of a former Palace triumvirate at Molineux, midfielder Simon Osborn being the third to have no joy against obdurate former team-mates.

After Palace had soaked up the first-half pressure - Wolves' manager Colin Lee said: "We were the team that looked to win the game" - the visitors had their first two shots of the match within 10 minutes of the restart.

Leon McKenzie went close both times. His 55th-minute header from Craig Foster's corner flashed over the bar, a virtual replica of his effort a minute into the half as Palace wore a distinctly more ambitious air.

But Wolves soon reasserted themselves in terms of possession, although they failed to create a significant chance in the second half, Lee's greatest disappointment. Only Robinson, again, got a shot on goal, and Miller fumbled but gathered the ball before it crossed the line.

Coppell claimed that since his team secured safety in Division One a few games ago, the only thing on his mind is the quality of performances, rather than results or play-offs, to encourage greater season-ticket sales this summer and improve cash flow. With only five games left, Lee's priorities are the opposite. As he said afterwards: "We're one point nearer our objective."