Dyer adds the vital ingredient

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The Independent Online

Crystal Palace 2 Stoke City 0

Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace caretaker manager, spent an anxious weekend trying to locate the missing ingredient he said was undermining their promotion cause. Last night it loomed large in the muscular form of Bruce Dyer, who scored his first goals in seven appearances to fire this important victory.

In taking his tally for the season to 18, Dyer refreshed Palace's promotion ambitions, which had appeared to be on the wane with two successive defeats. Their support thought that the case: this was their lowest gathering for a League match this campaign. But they now lie in seventh place and three of their final four fixtures are at home, although Barnsley on Saturday will surely test the authenticity of this return to form.

Both sides had been undone by an early goal on Saturday and for Stoke the unwanted experience was to be repeated. Just five minutes had elapsed when Dyer took a short pass from Marc Edworthy and then turned to beat Carl Muggleton with a thumping shot into the far corner. In that instant player and supporter alike visibly relaxed.

"I had several pointed letters from fans after Saturday's defeat at Sheffield United, saying that we lacked heart and commitment," Coppell said. "That wasn't the case, but we needed to show our intent tonight."

Stoke were able to offer only token resistance to Palace' superiority and appeared incapable of restraining their opponents. Dyer had clearly taken the hint that this was a night to return to prominence and he might have had a hat-trick before the interval. After 20 minutes, he scored his second from close in after Neil Shipperley had seized on a short corner.

However, the goalkeeper excelled himself in reaching to push over Dyer's volley and then reacted sharply to beat away a header from Gareth Davies. David Hopkin should have added his name to the Dyer show, but aimed his shot over.

The flame-haired midfielder did not reappear after the break and without him the visitors were able to win slightly more of the midfield contest. However, they were lightweight up front in Mike Sheron's continuing absence and Palace were never unduly stretched. Even when Andy Roberts erred, Mike Macari pushed his shot straight at Carlo Nash.

Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Nash; Davies, Roberts, Linighan; Edworthy, Houghton, Hopkin (Muscat, h-t), Rodger, Gordon; Shipperley (McKenzie, 73), Dyer (Freedman, 73).

Stoke City (4-4-2): Muggleton; Flynn, Whittle, Pickering, Griffin; Beeston, Wallace, Forsyth, MacKenzie; McMahon (Nyamah, 52), Macari. Substitutes not used: Kavanagh, Devlin.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).