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Palace 2-1 Preston

March 8 2009

Neil Danns

Neil Danns

Crystal Palace ended a winless home league run which stretched back to Boxing Day as they beat Preston 2-1 at Selhurst Park, writes Simon Pophale.

Our freefall towards the lower end of the table has been spectacular as it has been fast. With a poor run in the league, with only 1 win this year (Plymouth), Neil Warnock had to do something.

Thankfully, his canny knack of wheeling and dealing saw us send Danny Butterfield out as yet another “rogue agent” at Charlton, while we managed to bring in Anthony Stokes. His reward for a cameo appearance against Wolves, was a starting berth alongside Shefki Kuqi.

What a change it was, after the stuttering, sluggish forward line formations this season, here was one with pace and power, likely to put teams under pressure. With Preston shorn of 3 attacking players in Parkin, Chaplow and McKenna, the early exchanges saw us play some decent stuff on the floor and we spent more time in the Preston half than our own.

However, Preston are not in the playoff places by luck and their midfield started to impose themselves on proceedings and despite the defence playing a solid, tight game, lots of clearances fell to the likes of Nicholson, Nolan and Wallace and while neither keeper had been seriously tested, the blue touch paper had not yet been lit.

Shaun Derry shot over after a neat one-two with Neil Danns on 22 minutes, but Preston scored with their first real serious attack just before the half hour.

Claude Davis headed the ball loosely into the midfield and Eddie Nolan ran down the left, crossed for Stephen Elliott and the ex-Sunderland man squared the ball to an on-rushing Billy Jones who, unmarked, shot past Speroni from 15 yards.

Unlike other matches, despite going behind we came right back at the visitors and were level 2 minutes later. A long ball from the back was picked up by Stokes in midfield who, with defenders around him, managed to arrow a shot over Andy Lonergan off the left hand post and into the goal.

Suddenly, it was like the dark clouds had been lifted and on this sunny spring day, the players started to find the confidence that was missing in these last few weeks.

Which led to our second goal almost immediately afterwards. Oster ran down the left and passed to Paul Ifill, whose daisy-cutter cross into the box was met by Neil Danns and he finished from 10 yards to put us into the lead.

Preston were fortunate to finish the half with 11 men as Andrew Davies appeared to haul down Kuqi as the striker bore down on goal, but nothing was given and we led at the break.

The second half saw us deal with everything that Preston could throw at us. The defence to a man stood strong and as the half wore on, Preston seemed to run out of ideas.

Irvine made changes bring on Neil Mellor and Simon Whaley in a bid to provide an attacking thrust, but Speroni had little to do, other than the routine things which have made him one of the best keepers in the division.

2 minutes from time, Kuqi passed wide to Oster whose pinpoint cross was met by Danns and only a brilliant one-handed save from Lonergan kept the one advantage from becoming two.

At the end, relief and cheers, rather than the jeers that has accompanied our performances of late. Onward and upward!

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Lawrence (Clyne 90), Jose Fonte, Davis, Hill, Oster, Danns, Derry, Ifill (Scannell 89), Kuqi, Stokes (Ertl 90).

Subs Not Used: Scowcroft, Rui Fonte.

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