They remain managerless and pointless in the Premier League but Crystal Palace earned a much-needed lift in their Carling Cup tie at Walsall thanks to a first-half hat-trick by Dwight Gayle.
On his first start of the season, Gayle took just 41 minutes to complete his treble and earn the south London side their first victory since April.
With Palace hoping to have a manager in place for Saturday's trip to Newcastle, caretaker Keith Millen took charge for probably the final time and made nine changes from the weekend home loss to West Ham. Gayle certainly boosted his prospects of starting under the new man - be it Steve Clarke, Neil Warnock or one of the other names touted - with some sharp finishing reminiscent of the night of 'Crystanbul' when his two goals shattered Liverpool's title dreams.
“We didn't perform against West Ham but this will give everyone a lift,” said Millen. “[Gayle's] finishing was fantastic, he made good runs and he took his chances well. I am pleased for him and pleased for the squad. As a group of people we really needed that.”
Gayle gave Palace the lead after six minutes after Adlene Guedioura's quickly taken free-kick put him clear and he drilled a shot into the far corner. As with the first, his second goal came following a free-kick conceded by Walsall captain Adam Chambers, Gayle driving the ball through a porous home wall and past the scrambling Richard O'Donnell. His first Palace hat-trick was complete when he turned centre-back Paul Downing inside out before finishing low four minutes before the break.
Walsall's starting XI included Billy Clifford, a player who once took a grenade into the Chelsea training ground as a Stamford Bridge reserve. Winless in League One, Walsall have rather less firepower and their second-half rally came to naught as Ashley Grimes's shot struck the inside of the post.
Walsall (4-2-3-1): O’Donnell; Kinsella, Downing, Holden, Taylor; Clifford (Flanagan, 61), Chambers; Grimes, Sawyers (Baxendale, 61), Forde (Benning, 75); Bradshaw. Substitutes not used MacGillvary (gk), O’Connor, Morris, Bakayoko.
Crystal Palace (4-4-1-1): Hennessey; Mariappa, McCarthy, Delaney (Hangeland, 46), Binnom-Williams; Williams (Garvan, 74), Guedioura, Bannan, Thomas; Murray; Gayle (Gray, 62). Substitutes not used Kettings (gk), Boateng, Kaikai, Puncheon.
Referee D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).Reuse content