Palace's night of frustration

Crystal Palace 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Online
It was one big blank at Selhurst Park last night. A game devoid of goals, creative inspiration and decent shooting, and almost totally lacking in goalmouth incidents, left both sides with lots to do if they are to justify their claims as promotion candidates.

West Bromwich Albion, still without a League win or Paul Peschisolido in their attack, must have been slightly more satisfied with their point than Crystal Palace, who sorely missed their captain, Ray Houghton. Without the composure and accurate passing of the Irishman, who is preparing for a World Cup tie in Liechtenstein, last season's beaten First Division play-off finalists had no one, until David Hopkin belatedly stirred himself, to worry Albion from midfield.

The outcome was an utterly sterile match which must have left the Palace manager, Dave Bassett, wondering how his side will fare at Huddersfield on Saturday, when the England Under-21 team will take two more of his players, Bruce Dyer and Chris Day.

Dyer, back to his bad old days of crossing into the crowd and shooting wildly from impossible angles, will not, on this display, be missed. Day's one anxious moment came when Robert Quinn lost possession to Richards Sneekes. Judging his angles right, the goalkeeper advanced and safely smothered the shot.

Sneekes, whose shoulder-length blond locks would make him look more at home strumming a guitar, was clearly not content to merely provide Albion with a useful service from midfield. Always on the look-out for the opportunity to push forward, he was far and away the best player on the pitch.

Had either of Albion's front-runners followed his example, Albion would have achieved their first success on the ground since 1981. Both Andy Hunt and Bob Taylor were left with clear runs on the Palace goal during a five-minute spell after the interval, but the chances were scorned.

Hunt, capitalising on Darren Pitcher's loose pass, was caught by David Tuttle's timely tackle, and then Taylor uncharacteristically snatched at his shot after going past Andy Roberts.

The glimpse of a Palace post-interval revival proved to be an illusion and they could not exploit the tension in the Albion defence caused by George Ndah striking a post in the 47th minute from a pass by Roberts.

Dougie Freedman's moments of inspiration were all too rare and Albion had little difficulty holding out, even after they had lost Daryl Burgess with concussion after a clash of heads with Pitcher.

"We had total control in the first half," said the Albion manager, Alan Buckley. "We lost some fluidity in the second half but you can't expect to dominate a team like Crystal Palace for 90 minutes. They're a flipping good team." Not on this evidence, they aren't, Mr Buckley.

Crystal Palace (3-4-1-2): Day; Tuttle, Roberts, Quinn; Edworthy, Hopkin, Pitcher, Muscat; Freedman; Dyer, Ndah (McKenzie, 74). Substitutes not used: Veart, Boxall.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Spink; Holmes, Burgess (Mardon, 54), Raven, Nicholson; Hamilton, Sneekes, Groves, Gilbert; Taylor, Hunt (Cunnington, 54). Substitute not used: Donovan.

Referee: G R Pooley (Bishop Stortford).