Dowie hoping for better after Palace's slow start

The Eagles were relegated in May and are now back in the Championship. After making a slow start to the season, Dowie accepts they may have to try to grind out a result at Selhurst Park this time.

Dowie said: "It was a great game, and at time we were in a rich vein of form and very difficult to stop. Our circumstances have changed and perhaps those kind of results are a thing of the past. Scoring six goals in a game is a real rarity, and I certainly don't expect us to repeat the trick. I would love us to, but can't see it."

Palace lost their opening two games but are now in better heart after a narrow win over Plymouth was followed by a 3-0 defeat of Walsall in the Carling Cup.

Stoke were knocked out of the cup on penalties by Mansfield but have started well in the league, picking up seven points in four games, and Dowie is impressed by the manager, Johan Boskamp. "They've got a good man at the helm. Anyone who has come through the coaching system in Holland has obviously got a decent pedigree.

"The Dutch have traditionally played good passing football, and I'm sure Stoke under Johan will be no different. They'll be a tough nut to crack, and it'll be very important that we start solidly and take the game to them."

Elsewhere, early league leaders Reading will face a test of their credentials as they tackle in-form Watford at Vicarage Road.

Ipswich will travel to Millwall's New Den with confidence, despite their shock cup loss to Yeovil. Town manager Joe Royle said: "[Milwall] had a good win [against Bristol Rovers] in midweek and I'm sure they will be looking to build on that against us, but we will be looking to bounce back ourselves."

Second-placed Sheffield United host Coventry City at Bramall Lane, with the visitors encouraged by consecutive 3-0 victories over Queen's Park Rangers and Rushden & Diamonds.

Derby County will be looking to make up for their cup loss to Grimsby against Burnley at Turf Moor.

Among the other high-flyers, Leeds United take on an out-of-sorts Norwich City at Carrow Road, although the Canaries are boosted by Dean Ashton's decision to sign a new contract.

In other matches Cardiff City host Wolves at Ninian Park, while Leicester City meet Luton Town at the Walkers Stadium. Hull make the trip to Plymouth, Preston host Brighton, and Crewe visit Southampton.

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