Crystal Palace have been here before in the not too distant past. First there is the terrible start to a campaign, leading to a manager being sacked. Then the replacement struggles a little at first before guiding them up the table. The last time this happened was in the 2003-04 season, when Iain Dowie was the magician. The recovery started a little later than the current revival under Neil Warnock, and lasted all the way to May and promotion through the play-offs.
However, Warnock has banned all talk of play-offs and promotion for now, saying that is for the media to talk about, not his players. But even if he came to the job earlier than when Dowie did – October, compared to December – momentum is not a problem with Warnock at the moment. The Eagles' manager has put together a 15-match unbeaten league run and they are now within four points of second-placed Watford, the last team to beat them.
When Dowie took over, Palace were 20th in the First Division, as it was known then. When Warnock was lured from his Cornish hideout, having left Sheffield United in May, the south London club were second from bottom, having just sacked Peter Taylor. They are now fifth.
Not that the job was easy when he took over. As he said after this fairly routine win against a side who had started the day in second position: "I didn't know if I would have a job by Christmas after the first four weeks." So poor were his results – two draws and two defeats – that it looked like a terrible misjudgement to swap the open spaces of Cornwall for the tight confines of Selhurst Park.
But after that difficult settling-in period, Warnock has made a visible difference in only three months. "There's no formula – just hard work," he said. He has cracked some heads together as well. "If they're not working, I tell them," said the man who took Sheffield United up from the Championship in 2006.
He has even got Clinton Morrison working again, and the former Republic of Ireland striker now has 13 goals to his name this season, not that he knew much about this one here. Jamie McAllister was the defender trying to help out, but he hit his clearance against Morrison and the ball went into the back of the net.
That was enough to see off a jaded Bristol City side who themselves were on a good run of just one defeat in 10 games but, for good measure, Mark Hudson's header from Ben Watson's free-kick made sure that Warnock had something to cheer about after seeing his beloved Blades lose earlier in the day.Reuse content