Southampton 0 Crystal Palace 0: Burley's chink of light

Paul Newman
Thursday 26 January 2006 01:00
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On the basis of recent events, this was a minor triumph for Southampton. While one result will not stem the growing tide of dissatisfaction among supporters, last night's draw at St Mary's against one of the Championship's form teams marked some sort of progress after six defeats in seven matches had left George Burley's side looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.

Pockets of supporters stayed after the final whistle to continue their chants calling for the departure of Rupert Lowe, but bearing in mind the intensity of recent protests against him the Southampton chairman was probably a relieved man.

Yesterday's Southern Daily Echo featured six pages of angry letters, most calling for Lowe's head. That wish might soon be granted as the newspaper also revealed plans by local businessmen to oust him.

Lowe's evening would surely have been more uncomfortable had Andrew Johnson not looked so unsure in front of goal. Crystal Palace's leading scorer failed to convert a series of half-chances in a game which they will see as a missed opportunity to reinforce their promotion credentials.

Johnson's most glaring miss came after only 19 minutes. Bartosz Bialkowski, a £50,000 signing from Gornik Zabrze making his debut in the Southampton goal, charged recklessly off his line when Johnson broke clear on the right, leaving the Palace striker with an apparently simple lob into an empty net. To the 18-year-old's relief, Johnson's effort drifted well wide.

Burley praised "the hardest-working performance since I came here", but although some of Southampton's approach play was impressive, only Marian Pahars looked capable of taking advantage.

Palace, who had struggled to find their rhythm, improved considerably after the introduction of Dougie Freedman and Wayne Andrews in the second half. Johnson beat Bialkowski after Freedman's clever pass, only to have his effort ruled out for offside, and in injury time he headed Michael Hughes' cross wide of a post. It was that sort of night.

Southampton (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Baird, Lundekvam, Kenton, Higginbotham; Pahars, Prutton, Oakley, Surman; Ormerod (Dyer, 75), Jones (Blackstock, 61). Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Hajto, Fuller.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Hall, Ward, Hudson, Boyce; Soares, Watson (Andrews, 61), Hughes, McAnuff (Morrison, 84); Macken (Freedman, 61), Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Leigertwood.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

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