Palace show Routledge the reasons to stay on

Crystal Palace 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

After his team's best result of the season, Iain Dowie did well to hide his frustration at having to answer so many questions about the one Crystal Palace player who did not fully do himself justice at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

After his team's best result of the season, Iain Dowie did well to hide his frustration at having to answer so many questions about the one Crystal Palace player who did not fully do himself justice at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

It was perhaps inevitable that Wayne Routledge, who has turned down a new contract, would perform only fitfully against the club who have had a £1.5m offer for him turned down. The 20-year-old winger showed some fine touches but all too often, heckled by sections of the home crowd, he appeared uncharacteristically hesitant and unsure of himself.

Dowie, who revealed that "one or two other clubs" had also shown an interest in Routledge, is desperate to keep the England Under-21 international and after the game was doing nothing to play down his abilities. "In lots of ways when he holds the ball at his feet he reminds me of Maradona," the Palace manager said. "It's the way he drifts inside and has that ability with both feet to get out of situations. In terms of the quality of his crossing he's improving. He's a unique player. He's the pride of our academy."

Martin Jol, the Tottenham manager, said that on this occasion he had had eyes only for his own team, but pointed out that the club had had plenty of chances to assess Routledge. It seems certain that Tottenham will pursue their interest in the player, particularly as Jol highlighted his team's lack of penetration down the flanks.

Jol also bemoaned the absence of the injured Frédéric Kanouté, though not many managers would have much sympathy when you are left with a strike force of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane. Tottenham's front two, however, were barely given a sniff at goal by the Palace defenders Gonzalo Sorondo and Fitz Hall.

Ledley King had been similarly impressive at the other end, keeping a tight rein on Andy Johnson in front of the England head coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, until the pattern of what had been a shapeless game changed completely after 66 minutes. Tom Soares delivered a penetrating cross from the left and Mikele Leigertwood, showing more hunger for the ball than the Tottenham defence, bundled the ball home at the far post after a lung-busting run.

Four minutes later Danny Granville capitalised on shambolic defending and Routledge's sublime pass to score the second, and 11 minutes of Tottenham turmoil were complete when Pedro Mendes ended Johnson's surge into the penalty area with a trip. Johnson, who has become used to playing on his own up front but combined well here with Dougie Freedman as Dowie changed Palace's shape, took his season's Premiership tally to 14 by scoring from the spot.

On a day when the bottom four clubs picked up points, Palace's spirit was typified by Michael Hughes, the captain, who said his team had to treat every gameas a cup final. "We knew before the season began that it would be tough," Hughes said. "A relegation fight means a long season and a real grind."

Goals: Leigertwood (66) 1-0; Granville (70) 2-0; Johnson pen (77) 3-0.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Boyce, Hall, Sorondo, Granville; Routledge, Leigertwood, Hughes, Soares (Borrowdale, 88); Johnson (Andrews, 88), Freedman. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Powell, Lakis.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Pamarot (Yeates 72), Naybet, King, Edman; Marney (Kelly, 82), Carrick, Mendes, Ziegler (Atouba, 44); Defoe, Keane. Substitutes not used: Gardner, Eyre (gk).

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Crystal Palace Hughes; Tottenham Hotspur Marney, Pamarot.

Man of the match: Sorondo.

Attendance: 23,723.

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