Goals. What Palace wanted was goals. Never mind how many the other side scored, they needed something substantial on the scoresheet to convince themselves that they could face the play-offs with confidence. Iain Dowie had been thoroughly unimpressed with a goalless draw against Burnley but that was partly his fault because he rested Andrew Johnson. Yesterday he was entitled to feel that with Johnson back Palace had a chance to pile up a few against a club reviving but not looking forward to a summer against a background of rumours about who would have control at board level.
There was little evidence of Palace's goal search in the opening stages yesterday. Southampton were neat, constructive and positive. Nathan Dyer bent a free-kick dangerously. Gabor Kiraly pushed that away. Grzegorz Rasiak failed to take advantage when Tony Popovic mis-hit a clearance, and Palace looked more concerned with keeping injury free.
Slowly the trend changed. Johnson got busy, but Fitz Hall sliced a shot across goal when it was invitingly under attended. Yet Southampton's breakaways were never easily controlled. Dyer was especially nimble when staying wide and providing useful centres. Not that Southampton made sufficient use of his work. Andrew Surman was particularly negligent with a weak header followed by a tame slap at the ball in front of Kiraly.
Surman remained mysteriously incapable of getting a shot on target, and was not alone. Ricardo Fuller ran him close, which was frustrating for Dyer who was dominant on the right, mainly because Palace offered him the freedom of the wing.
Southampton were finally penalised for their poor finishing but not before they should have conceded a penalty when Palace's Dougie Freedman was clipped by Kevin Miller. He attempted to stay on his feet but after falling was denied a penalty. So much for trying not to cheat. However, Johnson made good the referee's error when driving the ball in after a goalmouth mêlée.
Eventually Southampton also found the target when a floated free-kick was gently headed in by Fuller who was unmarked.
That would have been a reasonable outcome but a superb, low through ball by Popovic allowed substitute Clinton Morrison to hit in Palace's winner. What it did not do was achieve the objective of sufficient goals for raising high confidence.Reuse content