Crystal Palace 4 Norwich City 1: Johnson a league apart for Palace

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The Independent Football

No wonder a few Norwich fans joined the standing ovation when Andy Johnson was substituted towards the end of this rout. The Crystal Palace striker returned from a thigh injury to inspire a victory that makes his side odds on for a play-off place and virtually condemns spineless Norwich to another season of Championship football.

Palace have lost one in 13 now while Norwich's recent rally of two wins seems hard to fathom on this showing. These teams were both in the Premiership last season, but only Palace have a genuine chance of going straight back up and, in Johnson, they have a top flight player.

Twice-capped Johnson does not feature in the latest England squad announcement, but he has scored 80 goals in 148 Palace appearances and his manager Iain Dowie said: "There is not an Englishman with a better scoring record.

"I would definitely take him to the World Cup. We had so many good performances out there and he gave us that cutting edge. That was a very big win for us and I wouldn't rule Norwich out of the shake-up. We were just very, very good."

Palace played like winners from the start with Johnson running on to a superb Ben Watson through ball to score in the seventh minute. Watson's strike, to double Palace's lead in the 34th minute, was even better. The gifted young Palace midfielder played a free-kick into Clinton Morrison inside the area to collect the return pass and drive in a right foot shot.

Norwich were fortunate not to be further behind as Jobi McAnuff, Tom Soares and Darren Ward all went within a whisker of scoring before half-time. Palace continued to dominate after the break and increased their lead through Morrison. Johnson and Soares combined to set him up with a simple finish from eight yards.

Norwich started looking really sorry for themselves and had stopped competing by the time the defender Fitz Hall headed in Watson's near-post corner for Palace's fourth goal in the 62nd minute. Only the hardiest Norwich supporters saw their 88th-minute goal. And it was an own goal, too, as Ward turned the ball past his own goalkeeper from a Darren Huckerby cross.

The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, said: "We were less than average and did none of the good things of our decent recent run. We didn't turn up and it's a backwards step after a few steps forward."