Dowie rails in defence of Johnson's honesty

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The Independent Online

Iain Dowie, the Crystal Palace manager, has launched a fierce defence of Andrew Johnson, insisting that the striker is not a diver.

Iain Dowie, the Crystal Palace manager, has launched a fierce defence of Andrew Johnson, insisting that the striker is not a diver.

Johnson was accused of going down too easily in the 3-3 draw against fellow Premiership strugglers Norwich at Selhurst Park on Saturday. The 24-year-old, who has scored 19 goals this season, earned his eighth penalty of the season after colliding with Jason Shackell and he picked himself up to convert from the spot in the 83rd minute and earn Palace a crucial point.

Dowie claimed Johnson is the most honest player he has worked with and has hit out at the critics.

"I'm fed up with Andrew Johnson being criticised for going down in the box. He does not do that," he said. "The penalty that was given against Norwich was blatant. Andrew's got a graze on his head about three inches wide.

"I don't know where this is coming from. Ask anyone at this club and they will tell you he is the most honest player. For people to insinuate Andrew Johnson is a cheat is disgusting for me.

"The most disappointing thing is that he is the emerging English talent that we have been looking for and now we want to try to criticise him because he gets penalties. I do think it's disturbing that one of our players - who I think can play at international level - should be criticised when he's the most honest pro you'll ever see.

"I don't want cheats at my club. It's not part of our ethos here - we try and have a bit of integrity. I don't like the coverage because referees see it."

Johnson, who is one of the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award, is currently struggling with a dead leg and is a doubt for the match at Blackburn Rovers. But if he does play, he can expect a physical battle against a Rovers side which have come in for criticism themselves about their approach to the game.

Dowie, however, has no complaints about the way the former Wales manager Mark Hughes has set up his side, especially as it has lifted them clear of the relegation zone.

"Mark Hughes has made them very difficult to beat - and quite right to. They are virtually safe so that's the right way to be," said the Palace manager. "He inherited a team of good, physical lads who compete for the ball. There is nothing wrong with that. I don't think the competitive side of the game should be taken away."

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