Crystal Palace 1 Leeds United 2: Derry hails Bates' golden touch as Leeds step up Premiership pursuit

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The Independent Online

Murmurs of dissatisfaction made their way around Selhurst Park at the final whistle: Crystal Palace's disappointed fans, like the club's manager, Iain Dowie, would do in the media briefing, acknowledged that their team had deserved nothing from this game. Meanwhile, Kevin Blackwell's Leeds United enhanced their claims for the second automatic promotion spot with a convincing victory.

With their Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United continuing to falter behind the Championship leaders, Reading, the midfielder Shaun Derry insisted that the Leeds chairman, Ken Bates, should be singled out for praise if his side returned to the Premiership after a two-year absence.

"He has been as good as gold to us," said Derry. "He has just come in and said that everybody should try and go express themselves. He has confidence in the gaffer by giving quite a lot of money."

Asked if the former Chelsea chief still warranted his fearsome reputation, Derry added: "Everybody knows what the chairman is like. He is a genuine fellow at heart and everybody appreciates that. He does not have much to do with day-to-day affairs. He is usually away on his yacht somewhere and we are up in sunny Leeds!"

Leeds bristled with intent all afternoon, and were ably supported by a resilient defensive unit. Despite the best efforts of Andrew Johnson, their enterprising and intelligent striker, Palace's efforts to breach the visitors' rearguard too often, and frustratingly for their supporters, came to nothing.

Leeds started brightly and the midfielder Jonathan Douglas came close on two occasions to giving Leeds an early lead. He first saw his header tipped over by the Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly on four minutes. From the resulting corner, the Hungarian international was forced into a smart save low to his left, denying Douglas' goalbound effort.

Leeds took the lead on 32 minutes through the birthday boy, Robbie Blake. Liam Miller made a purposeful run from midfield before passing into the path of Rob Hulse on the right wing. The striker's low cross was turned in from short range by his strike partner from three yards out - after the Palace defender Fitz Hall failed to clear the danger to - put the side from Yorkshire ahead.

Miller, the on-loan Manchester United player, was again the provider for Leeds' second goal on 53 minutes, crossing from the right wing for Hulse, who stole ahead of his defender before converting off the underside of the crossbar.

Palace battled bravely to try to regain a foothold in the game and came close with a number of chances as Leeds eased off. With a minute of injury time gone, the winger Jobi McAnuff clawed back a goal with a fine 20-yard shot, but it was not enough as Leeds secured maximum points, and in so doing extended their unbeaten run to nine games.

Goals: Blake (32) 0-1, Hulse (53) 0-2, McAnuff (90) 1-2.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Borrowdale, Hall, Ward, Boyce; McAnuff, Watson (Riihilahti 56), Hughes, Soares (Leigertwood 58); Johnson, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Popovic, Andrews, Speroni.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Lewis (Pugh 87), Douglas, Derry, Miller; Blake (Healy 87), Hulse. Substitutes not used: Bennett, Bakke, Moore.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Man of the match: Miller.

Attendance: 23,843.

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