Crystal Palace 2 Leicester City 0: McAnuff's persistence bears fruit

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The Independent Football

If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. Jobi McAnuff followed that maxim to the letter at Selhurst Park yesterday and was rewarded with the goal that put Crystal Palace on their way to a maximum return from their four holiday fixtures.

Iain Dowie's team had dominated but wasted a host of chances until McAnuff took centre stage in a remarkable 12-minute spell towards the end. The winger's first shot was deflected over the bar by Patrick McCarthy as Palace appeals for handball were turned down. Rab Douglas, the Leicester goalkeeper, clung on to his second, and his third brought a penalty as McCarthy handled. Douglas, diving to his right, brilliantly kept out Andrew Johnson's spot kick, but McAnuff was not to be denied. After Dougie Freedman had beaten Alan Maybury on the right, his cross gave McAnuff the chance to score from six yards.

When Johnson raced on to Mikele Leigertwood's through-ball to shoot past Douglas in injury time, the goal was no more than Palace and their England striker deserved. It was the third time in the second half that Johnson had been sent clear by Leigertwood, last-ditch challenges from Dion Dublin and McCarthy having earlier denied him.

"I always felt a goal was coming, even when we missed the penalty," Dowie said. "There's a belief within the squad that we can keep clean sheets and we always feel we can score."

Palace, cementing their place in the play-off positions, attacked throughout. Leicester, who have taken two points from their last seven games, would have been buried by half-time if the home team's finishing had matched the quality of their incisive approach play.

In the first quarter of an hour, Johnson made two scything runs down the right wing and his neat crosses laid on gilt-edged chances from eight yards for Clinton Morrison, who shot straight at Douglas, and Ben Watson, who blazed over the bar. Fitz Hall volleyed wide following a corner, while Morrison failed to connect properly when left unmarked after Ben Watson's free-kick had been deflected.

Leicester, who lost Danny Tiatto, their captain, with a torn hamstring after only 12 minutes, made little headway against a Palace defence in which Tony Popovic was outstanding. The closest they came was on the stroke of half-time, when Ryan Smith's cross found Stephen Hughes, whose shot flew narrowly wide.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Hall, Ward, Popovic, Boyce; Soares (Andrews, 71), Watson (Michael Hughes, 78), Leigertwood, McAnuff; Johnson, Morrison (Freedman, 59). Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Hudson.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Douglas; Stearman, McCarthy, Dublin, Maybury; Stephen Hughes, Gudjonsson, Kisnorbo (O'Grady, 82), Tiatto (Smith, 13); Hume (De Vries, 54), Hammond. Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Johansson.

Referee: C Penton (Sussex).