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November 24 2020 3.21am

Palace 2 - 0 Preston North End

Sat Apr 13 2002 - League

Crystal Palace ended their final home game of the season on a high after defeating a disappointing Preston side 2-0.

Preston desperately needed the win to claim a place in the play-offs, but the defeat leaves their season over.

A poor first half was followed by a much better second with Andrejs Rubins as the best player on the pitch. He assisted both goals. Goalscorers were substitute David Hopkin and Ade Akinbiyi.

The visitors could have taken an early lead when Clyde Wijnhard headed wide from close range from Richard Cresswell's cross on the right and Alex Kolinko just did enough to put him off.

He was then called into action to save from Gareth Ainsworth and Paul McKenna in the space of a minute. In the 16th minute, Cresswell had a header clear the crossbar.

Michael Keane shot wide and Ainsworth forced Kolinko into another save in the 24th minute. All Kolinko's save were pretty easy for him.

Palace looked more assured at the back, thanks largely to the presence of Tony Popovic, back from a long injury lay-off. Dean Austin contiuned his good form with a very good display along side him.

Julian Gray had to limp off injured in the early stages of the second half and Rubins came on and was very impressive. He will be looking to stake a regular place in the side for next season after his performance today.

Palace looked a threat when he had the ball but did not threaten Tepi Moilanen's goal.

In the second half, Hopkin replaced Andrew Frampton and had an immediate impact 10 minutes into the second period. Rubins put him through at the edge of the box and his drive sailed into the top left corner.

Clinton Morrison, who had a quiet game and obviously trying to stay injury free for the World Cup, had a goal disallowed from an Akinbiyi cross on the right.

But he reversed roles and set up Akinbiyi who couldn't miss to score from three yards with a low cross on the left. Akinbiyi ran to the Holmesdale and took his top off in celebration.

Promising England under-17 star star Wayne Routledge was given a run-out for the last five minutes, replacing Rubins who went off to a rousing reception.

Post match comments:

Trevor Francis said: "Preston were very good. They had more desire and more energy than us in the first half. We were always on the back foot and our defenders kept us level at half-time.

"The significant change in the second half was the change of shape. We went from a 3-4-3 to a 4-4-2 and took a grip of the game."

"The introduction of Hopkin and Rubins also played a big part. We lost two players on Thursday. Dougie Freedman pulled his hamstring and could be out for three to four weeks and Simon Rodger did the same thing in training.

"Jovan Kirovski’s wife went to hospital on Friday to have a baby so we lost him very late on.

"It was our third clean sheet in a row. We’ve struggled at the back this season and conceded a lot of goals.

"I tried to change that when I came here by bringing in some new players at the back, but the loss of Kit Symons and Tony Popovic cost us dear–- you could see the difference Popovic made today.

"We needed a victory for ourselves and it was nice to see Ade Akinbiyi score in front of his own fans."

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Match Stats

Ground: Selhurst Park (Attendance: 21361)

Palace: Kolinko, Fleming, Popovic, Austin, Granville, Mullins, Frampton (Hopkin, 45), Riihilahti, Gray (Rubins, 25 (Routledge, 87)), Akinbiyi, Morrison

Subs not used: Black, Carasso

Goals: Hopkin 55, Akinbiyi 64

Bookings: Akinbiyi , Popovic

Preston North End: Moilanen, Alexander, Gregan, Jackson, Edwards, Ainsworth (Healy, 66), McKenna, Etuhu, Keane (Anderson, 76), Wijnhard, Cresswell

Subs not used: Lucas, Rankine, Eaton

Booking: Alexander

Referee: Mr C Wilkes

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