Johnson double fuels Palace fears of raid in transfer window

Crystal Palace 2 - Aston Villa 0
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The Independent Football

Iain Dowie is expecting a busy month during the transfer window, but the Crystal Palace manager will be hoping that he will be making the phone calls rather than taking them. While Dowie wants to bring in new faces to bolster his team's efforts to escape the relegation zone, Andrew Johnson and Wayne Routledge showed at Selhurst Park yesterday why they have become two of the Premiership's hottest properties.

Palace's first win in 11 League games on an afternoon of compelling entertainment was secured by two more goals from Johnson, taking his tally for the season to 13. His pace was a constant threat to Villa's defence and his work-rate was in telling contrast to that of the other lone striker on the pitch, Juan Pablo Angel.

While Johnson has signed a five-year contract with Palace, Routledge has yet to agree an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season. Yesterday's performance may persuade Palace to strengthen their efforts to keep him, though it will also have impressed his admirers elsewhere.

At the end of a holiday programme of four matches in nine days, both teams contributed to a pulsating match in which there was a flow of chances at both ends. Bookings for Palace's Michael Hughes and Danny Granville and Villa's Gavin McCann, Ulises De La Cruz and Luke Moore were evidence of an afternoon high on passion and endeavour.

Although Villa have failed to score in four successive away defeats, David O'Leary's team played plenty of flowing football here. Their weakness was in front of goal, reinforcing O'Leary's disappointment at failing to sign James Beattie, though Gabor Kiraly had to be at the top of his form in the Palace goal.

Palace, however, particularly on the strength of their second-half performance, were well worth the win. They had three penalty appeals turned down and in the last 15 minutes could easily have doubled the winning margin as Routledge, in particular, started to run the Villa defence ragged.

Both teams had created several chances before Johnson ended nearly seven hours of Premiership football without a home goal at Selhurst Park after 33 minutes. Ben Watson's long-range shot should not have unduly troubled Thomas Sorensen, but the Villa goalkeeper was unable to hold it and Johnson, reacting smartly, raced in to drive the ball in from close range.

Palace's leading scorer thought he had scored again 12 minutes later after a goalmouth scramble, but the effort was disallowed, the referee's assistant ruling that the ball had gone directly out of play from the preceding corner.

Johnson, however, was not to be denied. After 66 minutes Routledge, showing wonderful control to hold off three defenders on the right of the penalty area, somehow found space to deliver a cross which Johnson headed on to Vassilis Lakis. As the Greek international tried to make space for a shot he was scythed down by Mark Delaney. Johnson made no mistake from the penalty spot. The only surprise on an afternoon of thoroughly entertaining football was that it was the last goal of the match.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Butterfield (Boyce, 76), Hall, Powell, Granville; Routledge, Watson (Leigertwood, 64), Hughes, Riihilahti, Lakis; Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Freedman, Shipperley.

Aston Villa (4-5-1): Sorensen; De la Cruz, Delaney, Ridgewell, Samuel; Solano, McCann, Hendrie (L Moore, 64), Davis, Barry; Angel. Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Berson, Whittingham, S Moore.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).