Shipperley strengthens Palace's play-off push

Football: Crystal Palace 3 Reading 2
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Palace's mission of rising into the First Division play-off zone was duly accomplished last night, but not without anxiety.

Given the home side's domination of this match, it was absurd that they found themselves having to endure eight minutes of nervous tension after Reading's substitute Martin Williams had pulled the score back to 3-2 with a breakaway goal.

That was the visitors' second meaningful effort of the night. Their first, a speculative 25-yard drive from their former Wales full-back Paul Bodin, also produced a goal which reduced Palace's 2-0 lead after 57 minutes. "It did look very worrying for a while," said Palace's caretaker manager, Steve Coppell. "But that was a massive result for us. If we hadn't got three points, I would have been topping myself now, I think."

Coppell had warned his side beforehand to forget their 6-1 win at Reading seven months earlier. That seemed like unnecessary caution as they produced a first half which might have seen them establish a four-goal lead. But a combination of near misses and smart goalkeeping from Steve Mautone meant that Palace's half-time lead consisted only of Andy Linighan's near- post header from a 13th-minute corner.

They increased it in the 49th minute when David Hopkin headed in unhindered from Bruce Dyer's right-wing cross, only for Bodin to set them back.

When Palace's third goal went in after 69 minutes - Neil Shipperley tapping in Dyer's cross after a flowing move in which he had played a major part - it appeared celebrations were in order. As if to confirm it, a female streaker with long brown hair enlivened the already lively proceedings. But Reading had a final contribution to make to a match Palace were relieved to finish.

Four points from their remaining games - away to Swindon and home to Port Vale - would assure them of a play-off appearance.

Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Nash; Tuttle, Roberts, Linighan; Muscat, D Hopkin, Houghton, Rodger, Gordon; Shipperley, Dyer (McKenzie, 77). Substitutes not used: Scully, Veart.

Reading (4-4-2): Mautone; Booty (Williams, h-t), McPherson, Holsgrove (Lambert, 77), J Hopkin; Bernal, Caskey, Gooding, Bodin; Lovell, Nogan (Blatherwick, 65).

Referee: P Rejer (Tipton, W Midlands)