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June 2 2023 8.23pm

Palace 2 - 0 Walsall

Sat Mar 23 2002 - League

Crystal Palace won their first home game since January 19 as they beat Walsall 2-0.

The Eagles had only scored once at Selhurst in five games since that last victory against Rotherham.

Palace beat Walsall by the same two-goal margin with strikes from Clinton Morrison and Dougie Freedman from the penalty spot after Ade Akinbiyi was brought down in the area.

In a scrappy game, Palace could not turn their possesion into goals as they wasted a number of half chances.

Akinbiyi, who was giving it all throughout the 90 minutes, went close and Julian Gray screwed his shot just wide of the post. Jovan Kirovski forced Saddlers' keeper James Walker into an easy save with an 18-yard effort.

Walsall had a couple of decent chances on the counter-attack and Darren Byfield had a long-range shot wide. The Palace defensive pairing of Dean Austin and Shaun Murphy were comfortable in dealing with the Walsall attack.

Gray shot wide again and Walsall's Marcelo found row z with an effort of his own. Akinbiyi then was inches wide from opening the scoring when he shot wide from a Morrison cross just before half-time.

The team left the field at half-time to a set of boos from the frustrated Palace crowd. At the start of the second half, Hayden Mullins and Kirovski had further long-range efforts but to no avail.

But with 20 minutes to go, Trevor Francis made a double substitution and formation change which saw Palace gain reward and later score.

Although the decison to replace Kirovski with Steve Thomson was not appreciated by the supporters, it was the introduction of Dougie Freedman on for Danny Granville which gave the loudest cheer.

Shortly after Curtis Fleming went off for Tommy Black and with three and the back and wingbacks in place, the Eagles looked far more effective.

Freedman was looking quality and Gray, who was having a good game, along with Black were bombing forward to break the deadlock. In the 77th minute, Gray's cross from the left was parried by Walker straight to Morrison who made no mistake to score.

Palace went crazy and had the visitors on the rack, with a number of chances. In the 80th minute, Akinbiyi, running onto a throughball used his pace and power to run into the box and looked to have taken one touches too many, but was brought down by Matt Carbon for a penalty.

Freedman stepped up to score from the spot to make it 2-0. Morrison added a third, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Matt Clarke was on hand to make two vital saves at the end as Walsall searched for a consolation goal.

Akinbiyi's effort in the game and his assist for the penalty looked to have won over many of his doubters and this will only help his confidence.

For Palace it was a must win and they left it late to seal the points to leave a very slim chance of the play-offs.

Post match comments:

Trevor Francis said: "Our home form lately has been poor - we have been struggling to score goals. Today we persevered until we finally got the goal.

"I think that too often over the past three or four months we’ve conceded the first goal and I've not seen a good enough response. So today I wanted to make sure that it was us who got the first goal. "Our form of late has been particularly poor in terms of results. I think that the problem has been we've obviously struggled to score goals.

"The performances in recent games have not been reflected in results, but if you don't score you’re obviously not going to win football games.

Ade Akinbiyi impressed fans with a commited display and won a penalty which Dougie Freedman scored from to make it 2-0.

Francis added: "I think his contribution to the team is there for all to see. His work ethic is phenomenal. I think he deserved a goal but there is not another player in our team that would have got to the ball the way Ade did before being fouled.

"He used pace, strength and powerful running and he won the penalty, which Dougie Freedman converted wonderfully well."

Francis dwelled on the slim chances of Palace making the play-offs after the victory.

He said: "Prior to today’s game I said that we needed to win five of our last six. Now we certainly have to win our two home games, against Birmingham and Preston who are both in contention for the play-offs, and we also need to win a couple of away games.

"Obviously there are other teams that are in a more favourable position than ourselves in the table but we still have every chance of getting there ourselves."

Colin Lee said: "It is disappointing, I thought we threw the game away. I didn't think there was much between the two teams. When they changed their shape it did throw us into turmoil.

"If you take away the mistakes our football wasn't too bad. In the first half we were playing ourselves in. We need to put this behind us and look forward to our next game."

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Match Stats

Ground: Selhurst Park (Attendance: 21038)

Palace: Clarke, Fleming (Black 73), Austin, Murphy, Granville (Freedman 70), Mullins, Riihilahti, Gray, Kirovski (Thomson 70), Morrison, Akinbiyi.

Subs not used: Kolinko, Berhalter.

Goals: Morrison 77, Freedman 80 (pen).

Walsall: Walker, Carbon, Brightwell (Herivelto 86), Roper, Aranalde, Biancalani (Leitao 83), O'Connor, Corica, Wrack, Byfield Marcelo (Goodman 64).

Subs not used: Bennett, Harper.

Referee: A Bates (Stoke-on-Trent)

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