Dougie Freedman returned to the Crystal Palace attack after a bout of flu and order was restored as his free-scoring team took their goal tally to 35 from 14 games and recorded their sixth successive home win. The Scotland striker missed Palace's midweek defeat at Burnley, which had ended a run of seven wins in a row, and marked his comeback at Selhurst Park yesterday with a sparkling display.
On current form there is surely no better attacking partnership in the First Division than Freedman and Clinton Morrison, who took their combined League tally for the season to 21 and for periods ran rings around the Norwich defence. While Morrison took the scoring honours, netting his 10th and 11th, it was Freedman who took the eye with his quick feet and attacking vision.
One burst of Freedman skill to set up the first goal for Morrison was worth the admission money alone. After selling a dummy to Craig Fleming as he ran on to Simon Rodger's pass, Freedman beat the defender twice more as he went on a mazy run that ended with a cross glanced home by Morrison.
Freedman was pivotal, too, in the build-up to his 10th goal of the campaign. Beginning the move deep in his own half on the left-hand touchline, Freedman cleverly linked with Aki Riihilahti and Jovan Kirovski before playing a neat one-two with Morrison and shooting past Robert Green. In between those strikes Morrison had again shown his sharp eye for goal when he ran on to Rodger's pass and cut in before shooting home at the near post.
During the middle hour of the match Palace played some glorious football, most of it centred around Freedman, but it took an astute tactical switch by their manager Steve Bruce to put them in command. In the opening minutes Norwich had ripped Palace's left flank apart as Steen Nedergaard and Mark Rivers found Iwan Roberts with a series of searching crosses. Bruce responded by switching from 5-3-2 to 4-4-2 and Palace gradually took control.
Palace should have been out of reach when Matt Clarke failed to get down quickly enough to keep out Marc Libbra's free-kick after 69 minutes. Roberts' 85th-minute penalty, after Dean Austin had brought down the lively Libbra, ensured a tense finish, though anything other than a Palace victory would have been a gross injustice.
Goals: Morrison (41) 1-0; Morrison (52) 2-0; Freedman (65) 3-0; Libbra (69) 3-1; Roberts pen (85) 3-2.
Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Clarke; Smith, Austin, Popovic, Mullins, Gray; Riihilahti, Kirovski, Rodger (Hopkin, 82); Freedman, Morrison. Substitiutes not used: Kolinko (gk), Black, Berhalter, Routledge.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Nedergaard (Sutch, 66), Fleming, Mackay, Drury; Rivers (Llewellyn, 66), Mulryne, Holt, McVeigh; Russell (Libbra, 54), Roberts. Substitutes not used: McGovern, Crichton (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring).
Bookings: Crystal Palace: Mullins, Austin, Gray. Norwich: Rivers.
Man of the match: Freedman.
Attendance: 19,870.Reuse content