Johnson's on-the-spot guidance provides Palace grounds for hope

Crystal Palace 3 - Norwich City 3
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The three teams promoted to the Premiership last summer may yet fill the three relegation places, but their fans cannot complain about any shortage of entertainment this season. Crystal Palace, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have all played with spirit and, at different times, have put together sequences that offered genuine belief that they can survive.

The three teams promoted to the Premiership last summer may yet fill the three relegation places, but their fans cannot complain about any shortage of entertainment this season. Crystal Palace, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have all played with spirit and, at different times, have put together sequences that offered genuine belief that they can survive.

Albion are hoping they have hit form at the right time, while Palace need to find another run to add to the two which have provided their six Premiership wins, three in October followed by another three from four home matches after the turn of the year. Meanwhile, Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager, joked that his team were "on a roll" after their remarkable win over Manchester United was followed by Saturday's thrilling draw at Selhurst Park.

This was a match that both sides had to win, although Norwich could derive more encouragement, even after letting slip a two-goal advantage. Home games this week against Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic offer a real chance to move off the bottom of the table.

The form of Dean Ashton is a particular source of hope. The £3m signing from Crewe gave a classic centre-forward's display, leading the line with authority and showing plenty of skill on the ground. His second goal was from the top drawer as he pounced on Fitz Hall's error, accelerated past Gonzalo Sorondo and shot into the far corner.

Ashton admits he took time to settle in the Premiership, but his hard work has been rewarded by five goals in 11 games. "I thought it would be a lot tighter today, but as both teams went for the goals it opened up," he said. "We feel as if we're going to score goals. We needed the win and we have to score goals away from home, but we're disappointed. When we got our goals we should have sat back, kept our shape and held on to the lead. But we definitely believe we can still get out of it."

Ashton's first goal, after a bulldozing run by Damien Francis through a static Palace defence, put Norwich back in the game after poor marking at a free-kick had let in Joonas Kolkka. When Leon McKenzie made the score 3-1 Palace seemed down and out, but a storming finale might have seen them take all three points. Andy Johnson, a threat throughout, made a surging run and crossed for Michael Hughes to score the best goal of the game with a powerful header, Johnson's penalty levelled the scores and, in injury time, Robert Green's full-length dive kept out Hall's spectacular overhead kick.

Johnson, who had not scored since his two penalties against Birmingham in February, has equalled Alan Shearer's record of 10 Premiership penalties in a season. He has also missed two of Palace's 12 spot-kicks, eight of which have been awarded for fouls on himself. He was involved in several penalty appeals here, three of them after challenges by Jason Shackell. Although the penalty awarded was debatable, it made up for Rob Styles' refusal to point to the spot after the Norwich defender's first clumsy challenge on Johnson and a clear handball on the line by Youssef Safri.

Worthington had no complaints and agreed Palace could have had two penalties in the first half. However, he thought Johnson might have gone to ground too easily for the equaliser and said he had told his bench at half-time that he feared Styles might "make amends for the first half".

Dougie Freedman, Johnson's strike partner, also felt justice was done. "There were three challenges and they were probably all 50-50 penalties," he said. "Andy plays on the shoulder of defenders. He's extremely quick and he only weighs about 10 stone. When he's up against defenders weighing 13 or 14 stone and they challenge him, it's inevitable that they're going to knock him over sometimes. He doesn't go down intentionally, but he's so sharp and so good at sucking defenders in that he's always going to win penalties."

Palace desperately need points from two tricky matches this week, away to Blackburn and at home to Liverpool, as Iain Dowie, the manager, rues the consequences of his club's failure to complete the transfers of two players for which fees had been agreed. Eight days ago Tim Cahill, who eventually joined Everton from Millwall last summer, scored twice in a 4-0 win over Palace, who were beaten by Norwich in the January race to sign Ashton.

Goals: Kolkka (5) 1-0; Ashton (22) 1-1; Ashton (46) 1-2; McKenzie (53) 1-3; Hughes (73) 2-3; Johnson pen (83) 3-3.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Butterfield (Torghelle 72), Hall, Sorondo, Granville; Routledge, Leigertwood (Soares, 65), Hughes, Kolkka (Popovic, 84); Johnson, Freedman. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Riihilahti.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Helveg, Fleming, Shackell, Drury; Bentley, Francis (Holt, 88), Safri, Huckerby (Jonson, 90); McKenzie (Svensson, 88), Ashton. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Doherty.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Crystal Palace Granville, Hughes; Norwich City: Helveg, Shackell.

Man of the match: Ashton.

Attendance: 25,754

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