Palace 1 - 3 Crewe Alexandra
Tue Dec 9 2003 - League
Kit Symons' managerial life hangs by a thread after Palace's worst home performance of the season saw them slump into the bottom three on Tuesday.
Ground: Selhurst Park (Attendance: 12259)
Palace: Myhre, Edwards, Fleming (Black, 72), Symons, Borrowdale, Butterfield, Riihilahti, Derry, Routledge, Shipperley, Freedman
Subs not used: Granville, Berthelin, Watson, Hughes
Goal: Butterfield 78
Crewe Alexandra: Ince, Wright, McCready (Moses, 82), Foster, Tonkin, Cochrane, Lunt, Billy Jones, Steve Jones, Ashton (Higdon, 88), Varney (Smart, 79)
Subs not used: Bankole, Robinson
Goals: Ashton 8, Varney 16, Ashton 86
Symons’ record is now just one win in seven and three defeats in a week make his chances of netting the permanent role, about as good as his teams’ of gaining promotion.
Two goals in the opening 17 minutes from Dean Ashton and debutant Luke Varney ensured the rest of the match was played out to a chorus of boos from the sparse crowd of 12,259.
Palace were atrocious in the first half, and despite showing some spirit in the second, the players thoroughly deserved the vitriol that greeted the final whistle.
But Symons should shoulder much of the blame for the abysmal performance against a side who had not won in seven away games.
After Saturday’s thrashing at Preston, he brought back the apathetic Dougie Freedman
, Curtis Fleming
and Wayne Routledge
for Tommy Black
, the suspended Tony Popovic
and inexplicably dropped Palace’s best performer in recent games Michael Hughes
to the bench.
Asked why he selected Aki Riihilahti
, Symons said: "Hughesy has been playing well but I thought Aki’s legs and his fitness levels would help us over-power Crewe, but it obviously didn’t come of."
Symons and Stuart Gray completely mis-read the way Crewe would play and Palace’s 4-4-2 was ripped apart by Dario Gradi’s unusual 4-2-3-1 shape within minutes.
Left winger Steve Jones gave Fleming a torrid time and seven minutes in, he crossed for Ashton who completely missed a simple header yards out.
Palace did not heed the warning and three minutes later Jones squared to Ashton on the edge of the box and he drove just inside the near post for his eighth of the season.
Seven minutes later it was the turn of right winger Luke Varney to embarrass Palace on his full debut. Symons' slip in midfield allowed Kenny Lunt to thread a great pass inside Gary Borrowdale
Varney held off Borrowdale’s valiant attempt to recover and chipped over Myhre, who was slow off his line.
Palace were shell-shocked and Varney came within inches of netting again but Borrowdale made a great recovery block.
Myhre was called into action to push away Lunt’s vicious free kick and before the break Chris McCready blazed over when a goal-mouth scramble presented a tap-in chance.
Booed throughout, Palace hardly mustered a chance in the first half and the only players who looked interested were Routledge, Shipperley and Shaun Derry
Stung in action at the break, the hosts did come out fighting, led by Derry who was everywhere despite abuse from the stands.
Steve Jones had two more good chances go begging, before Palace finally stirred, with Butterfield’s cross shot just eluding Riihilahti and Routledge, Palace’s outstanding attacker, hitting a wicked 25 yards volley straight at Clayton Ince.
Palace finally made use of the bench with 25 minutes to go and Black, on for Fleming, dragged a great chance wide when Freedman’s flick put him through.
Five minutes later Butterfield put Palace back in it when he rifled home Freedman’s lay off from 12 yards out.
But the onslaught never arrived and when Lunt delivered an inswinging free kick that drew Myhre, it was Ashton who rose unchallenged to cleverly head into an empty net.
In the closing moments, Derry, one of the few players to give 90 minutes’ effort, selflessly threw himself at Butterfield’s cross but could not connect, and predictably the final whistle brought booing from those fans who were still there.
Afterwards Symons said: "We’re bitterley disappointed. Our first performance was terrible and we got what we deserved. We rallied a but second half and had a go.
On Palace’s slump into the bottom three, he said: "We are down there and that’s the bottom line. We got ourselves into this mess and it is down to us collectively to get out of it."
Man of the match: Shaun Derry
- Played through the mindless terrace abuse and gave his all for the cause. Unlike certain Selhurst terrace heroes.
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