Crystal Palace 2 Southampton 1: Play-off success may keep Johnson at Palace

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The Independent Online

Scoring in the sunshine, maybe, for a second, Andrew Johnson felt he was in Frankfurt, Nuremberg or Cologne and the World Cup was all around him. Those are the venues for England's group games this summer but a quick look around would have reminded the striker he was deep in south-east London instead.

Whether the Crystal Palace forward is still in Sven Goran Eriksson's plans for this summer is unclear, but the indications have not been good this year and Johnson's team-mate Michael Hughes feels he will not be involved in Germany.

Playing a season in the Championship, after breaking into the England reckoning last year, has not helped Johnson's cause, even if Hughes believes he could act as good back-up to Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. "I'm not sure if he'll make the World Cup," the Northern Ireland midfielder said. "He's good enough but it looks like he'll just miss out."

In a game in which it looked like both sides could play until the start of next season without scoring, there was a sudden spurt of three goals in 18 minutes, a run started by Johnson with his 17th of the campaign in all competitions.

For most of this game Palace looked like a team struggling for their place in the Championship. In fact, much like Southampton, who are now safe but have endured a tough struggle.

But Johnson it was who opened the scoring when a bout of pinball, created by the 25-year-old himself, ended when he slotted his shot past Kevin Miller, who endured an unhappy return to Selhurst Park.

As to Johnson's prospects at the club, Hughes said: "If we go up it certainly gives us a chance to keep him." The Palace assistant manager, Neil McDonald, sounded less confident. "Andy deserves to play in the top flight," he said. "Hopefully, it'll be with Palace."

Ably prompted by the Liverpool loan midfielder Darren Potter, Southampton had a series of chances to kill off their hosts. Ricardo Fuller finally scored with a header from Potter's free-kick but it was not enough.

Just when it seemed that George Burley's side had earned a point, up popped Clinton Morrison. He ran on to Tony Popovic's pass and with the Saints' defence opening up, the Republic of Ireland international calmly converted. The play-offs and possible club success await for Johnson, but disappointment with England surely beckons.

Goals: Johnson (63) 1-0; Fuller (68) 1-1; Morrison (81) 2-1.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Butterfield, Hall, Popovic, Borrowdale; McAnuff, Hughes, Watson (Soares, 78), Reich (Leigertwood, 64); Freedman (Morrison, 73), Johnson Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Macken.

Southampton (4-4-2): Miller; Baird, Kenton (Ostlund, 69), Lundekvam, Brennan; Dyer, Wright, Potter, Surman; Rasziak (Jones, 71), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Prutton, Blackstock.

Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Crystal Palace Morrison; Southampton Baird, Ostlund.

Man of the match: Potter.

Attendance: 20,995.

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