Freedman fires hat-trick to save depleted Palace

Burnley 2 Crystal Palace 3
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The Independent Football

Of all the poor decisions Trevor Francis made in changing Crystal Palace from one of the First Division's most entertaining and enterprising teams into one of its most sterile, the purchase of Ade Akinbiyi from Leicester City for £2.4m was surely his most spectacular.

Not only did Akinbiyi fail to add to Palace's firepower - in 28 appearances for the club he has scored only three goals - but his arrival also disrupted arguably the best attacking partnership outside the Premiership, that of Clinton Morrison and Dougie Freedman. While Morrison left last year to join Birmingham, Freedman remained but rarely rediscovered his best form.

When Steve Kember was announced this summer as the successor to Francis, he immediately said Akinbiyi had no future at Selhurst Park (though whether Palace will ever find another club willing to take on the former Leicester striker's wages - let alone pay a transfer fee - is another matter). Kember also made it clear that he saw Freedman as an integral part of his plans.

Palace's one signing this summer, bringing back Neil Shipperley to partner Freedman, is already looking an astute move. The former Wimbledon striker gave a classic centre-forward's display at Turf Moor on Saturday, unsettling defenders, shielding the ball, laying it off to colleagues and dominating in the air.

The benefits to Freedman - not one to relish the physical side of the game - were immediately apparent. After three minutes the Scot raced on to Shipperley's perfectly judged header and was brought down by Lee Roche as he shaped to shoot. Freedman's successful penalty was the first instalment of an opening-day hat-trick.

If Freedman's third goal was a tap-in after Brian Jensen had failed to hold Andrew Johnson's rasping shot, his second was a beauty. Ben Watson threaded a delightful through ball to Freedman, who timed his run to perfection, rounding Jensen before scoring from a difficult angle.

Not that this was a straightforward win for Palace, thanks to red cards for Wayne Routledge and Shaun Derry. Burnley promptly went 2-1 up after the harsh sending-off of Routledge in the 10th minute, the Palace youngster appearing to clip Luke Chadwick's heels accidentally as he chased the on-loan Manchester United winger. Robbie Blake buried the subsequent free-kick, while Roche hit a screamer into the top corner eight minutes later. Palace, however, always looked the classier team, even when they had only nine men for the last 25 minutes after Derry's departure for two yellow cards.

As for Burnley, this promises to be a difficult season. Sixteen players have left Turf Moor in the summer and while they have plenty of attacking talent in Blake, Chadwick, Glen Little, Ian Moore and Gareth Taylor (the latter two were missing on Saturday through suspension and injury respectively as Burnley could not even fill their substitutes' bench), Stan Ternent, the manager, knows his defensive resources are thin. "I said before the start of the season that we would be entertaining this year," he said after Saturday's match. "We proved that today - but unfortunately too much of the entertainment came in our own penalty area."

Goals: Freedman (3, pen) 0-1; Blake (10) 1-1; Roche (18) 2-1; Freedman (31) 2-2; Freedman (66) 2-3.

Burnley (4-4-2): Jensen; Roche, Branch, Gnohere, Camara; Chadwick, Weller (Grant, 76), Chaplow (West, 79), Little; A Moore (O'Neill, 83), Blake. Substitute not used: Scott (gk).

Crystal Palace (3-4-1-2): Clarke; Powell, Symons (Borrowdale, 21; Smith, 76), Popovic; Butterfield, Derry, Watson (Riihilahti, 62), Routledge; Freedman; Shipperley, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Berthelin (gk), Black.

Sendings-off: Palace: Routledge, Derry.

Bookings: Burnley: Weller, Gnohere. Palace: Popovic, Smith.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Attendance: 12,976.

Man of the match: Freedman.

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