Football: Wright record, wrong result

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Arsenal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Wright 72

Crystal Palace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Salako 19, 41

Attendance: 34,136

IAN WRIGHT might have bagged his 100th goal for the Gunners but it was the 101st that would have come in handy, and that just did not happen. Not enough did for Arsenal yesterday.

Two down by the 41st minute and imagination-free for large stretches of the first half, they were kept from getting back on terms by bad luck, a few missed chances and, above all, some amazing goalkeeping by Nigel Martyn.

All the ambition Arsenal cherished at the start of the season is beginning to look meaningless. It might be all right, just, to lose away to Liverpool and Newcastle, but at home to Crystal Palace?

When, three minutes into the game, Wright caught Martyn on the hop and forced a palms-out parry from the Palace keeper, it looked as though Arsenal were going to put a string of so-so results behind them, but that moment was misleading. As the first half wore on, they made too many mistakes and too many balls went astray. Even in a gloomy autumnal light, red shirts are not that hard to spot.

Palace might not be the loftiest of opponents, but at least they had a buzz about them. With only a quarter of an hour gone, John Salako was starting to look fast and dangerous though it was a while before he had the support to capitalise, as if his team mates couldn't quite believe that Tony Adams and Andy Linighan were so ripe to be pasted. But in the 19th minute, Bobby Bowry stole the ball from Lee Dixon and found Chris Armstrong on the left. That shot was parried by David Seaman, but only as far as Salako, who was chuffed to make it 1-0.

Wright was still gamely trying to notch up the big 100 on his own, but it was almost completely Palace's half, and instead of hailing their own number eight as hero, the Arsenal crowd had to grin and bear it as Salako strutted his stuff again. His second goal was another gift from Armstrong, whose fine cross found him unmarked on the left. He coolly knocked it past Seaman.

Arsenal began the second half with Kevin Campbell taking the place of Paul Davis, and it was tempting to wonder what they would have done if he had started the match. Woken out of their torpor, Arsenal sweated so much blood to get even that anyone not chained by the heart to Crystal Palace must have longed for them to pull goals back.

They managed one after a succession of corners when, with Palace already reduced to Total Panic defending, Campbell's cross from the left came whizzing over. Martyn leapt sideways to it but Wright was there first, by the far post, to put it in. Alas for Arsenal, it was the only time he did.

(Photograph omitted)