Carlisle punishes Palace

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The delight felt by Crystal Palace supporters at having a solvent football club and not needing to go to Gillingham to watch them - as seemed likely at one stage of a traumatic summer - was diluted yesterday by the sloppy equalising goal that prevented a first victory of the season.

The delight felt by Crystal Palace supporters at having a solvent football club and not needing to go to Gillingham to watch them - as seemed likely at one stage of a traumatic summer - was diluted yesterday by the sloppy equalising goal that prevented a first victory of the season.

For a while it seemed that the new belief on and off the pitch following the club's rescue from administration might see Palace home. Mikael Forssel deflected in Simon Rodger's shot just before half-time, but midway through the second half Stuart Taylor, the teenage goalkeeper on loan from Arsenal, failed to get to a cross and Clarke Carlisle, an outstanding young defender, headed in.

Palace may have to be prepared to put up with occasional errors like that from a team that yesterday featured seven players aged 21 or under. Forssel was badly at fault later in missing a glorious chance to win the game and although Hayden Mullins looked promising as a sweeper, the experience of Neil Ruddock, one of seven new signings, was the home side's most valuable asset. Jamie Pollock, recruited for £700,000 from Manchester City, backed him up well before taking a heavy blow to the face and having to go off.

Alan Smith, who could not resist giving up a comfortable job with Fulham to return to Palace following Steve Coppell's sudden departure, has promised not to criticise players publicly or dwell on negatives this time. "I'm not unhappy about the game," he said. "I think they're a young, exciting team and they gave me 100 per cent. They've had two years of uncertainty here and I need to bring stability to the club."

His opposite number, Gerry Francis, was equally satisfied with the draw. Justifiably famed for finding bargains in football's equivalent of the Oxfam shop, he has discovered another in the 20-year-old centre-half Carlisle, signed for £250,000 from Blackpool. "He's got the potential to do very, very well and could also get eight to 10 goals a season," Francis said.

The first of them might have come after only two minutes, a glancing header from a corner which led to two further chances for Paul Furlong, who is on loan from Birmingham. Carlisle flicked another header wide before, right on half-time, Pollock set up Rodger, whose drive was deflected in off Forssel's hip.

Rangers equalised in the 65th minute when Taylor came for Mark Perry's high cross but could not prevent Carlisle heading home. Tommy Black, a summer signing from Arsenal, took on greater responsibility in Palace's midfield after Pollock's injury and set up Forssel, who instead of tapping into a beckoning net, shot wildly over.

The attendance of just over 19,000 must have been encouraging to Palace's new owner Simon Jordan, who believes the club now has "its greatest opportunity since it was branded the team of the Eighties". Much patience will be needed before that opportunity can be grasped.

Goals: Forssel (45) 1-0; Carlisle (65) 1-1.

Crystal Palace: (3-5-2) Taylor; Fan Zhiyi, Mullins, Ruddock; W Carlisle, Black, Rodger, Pollock (Fullarton 55), Harrison; Morrison (McKenzie 82), Forssel (Gray 77). Substitutes not used: Smith, Austin.

Queen's Park Rangers:(3-4-1-2) Harper; C Carlisle, Morrow, Ready; Perry, Wardley, Langley, Baraclough; Peacock; Furlong (Crouch 88), Kiwomya (Connolly 81). Substitutes not used: Miklosko (gk), Heinola, Jeanne.

Referee: F Stretton. Booked: Palace: Carlisle, Mullins. QPR: Kiwomya.

Man of the match: Ruddock. Attendance: 19,020.

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