Palace future no clearer for upbeat Dowie

Newcastle United 0 - Crystal Palace 0
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The Independent Football

It says a lot about the enormity of Crystal Palace's battle against the drop that their manager, Iain Dowie, is planning for a European challenge at the same time as weighing up trips to Luton and Coventry.

This was a more than useful point for the Eagles, even if it was not enough to prevent them dropping back into the relegation zone. But it has done little to determine their future. Once they have faced their fellow relegation candidates Southampton next weekend they will have a clearer idea of where they will be playing their football next season.

Lose at Selhurst Park and Palace's young manager will have to prepare himself to win promotion without star players like Andrew Johnson and Wayne Routledge, who will not want to return to the Championship.

"We've had a fantastic journey and it's all credit to the players and everyone associated to the club," said Dowie. "The journey never ends, whatever happens. There'll be 15-20,000 wanting re-promotion or expecting mid-table or Europe. That is how thin the line is."

Palace travel to Charlton for their final game. "Maybe last year's play-off experience will hold us in good stead," said Dowie. "We've got a lot of the same players. I can say my lads have got the mettle to stay in the division."

Palace rarely looked like winning here, although the defender Tony Popovic will be annoyed he did not make proper contact with Michael Hughes' second-half free-kick. The point, though, was of far more importance to Palace than it was to Newcastle United.

Graeme Souness' side had the better chances but could not finish. Alan Shearer and Shola Ameobi were denied by the goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly in the first half. In the second, Steven Taylor and Patrick Kluivert both had "goals" ruled out.

It is a damning indictment of the apathy which has greeted United's run in that their normally passionate supporters were, by that point, more interested in building and then throwing paper aeroplanes on to the pitch.

Newcastle United (4-5-1): Given; Carr, Boumsong, Taylor, Elliott (Ramage, 46); Ameobi (Robert, 68), Ambrose (Kluivert, 68), Faye, N'Zogbia, Milner; Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), O'Brien.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1) Kiraly; Sorondo, Popovic, Hall, Granville; Routledge (Torghelle, 90), Leigertwood, Riihilahti, Hughes, Soares; Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Watson, Ventola, Lakis.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Bookings: Newcastle N'Zogbia. Crystal Place Popovic, Leigertwood.

Man of the Match: Boumsong.

Attendance: 52,123.

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