Johnson strikes fear into Megson's ruins

Crystal Palace 3 - West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Football

The job security of the West Bromwich Albion manager, Gary Megson, looked increasingly flimsy after conceding that this was his side's worst performance in his four-and-a-half year rule at the club. The further admission that he can not even get the players to train properly and forthcoming games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, place his future further in doubt.

Megson was speaking from a position of weakness, whereas his counterpart at Crystal Palace, Iain Dowie, was able to admit his shortcomings after watching his side rise from the foot of the Premiership table to 15th after claiming their second win of the season.

The Palace goals came from Fitz Hall after five minutes and a 12th-minute penalty from Andy Johnson, who also scored five minutes into the second half. The key man behind this win, however, was the Northern Ireland international midfielder, Michael Hughes, a player Dowie admitted he had wrongly left out of the side at the start of the season.

"I have made mistakes and I will make monumental errors," was Dowie's frank admission, which impressed Hughes. He said: "The manager has got a tough job to do [and] I fully understood his reasons for leaving me out at the start of the season. He wanted more physical players in the team, and I understood that at the time. I'm pleased to be back playing and in a team that tries to play football. To me, for him to come out and admit that, just shows what kind of man he is.

"I think we thought this league was going to be a lot more physical and a lot more quick than the First Division. That is what was in people's minds. I think we have reassessed the situation, and come to the conclusion that we have got to play football, and we are good enough to play football. Last year we had a team with lots of pace in it, we broke very quickly, we soaked up stuff and were straight down the other end."

Hughes, 33, believes he could have up to another five years playing at this level. His experience enabled him to point out that their flirtation with success should not be carrying Palace away. He added: "That was our best performance of the season without a doubt. Not only because we scored three goals, but because we ran the game from start to finish.

"I don't think it suddenly sparked into life today. We have been threatening to do that. But it takes a few games to adapt to this league. Let's not get carried away, it was one good result and one good performance. There is still a long way to go. But our last four games we have taken seven points from. That's good.

"We have just got to keep that going and build on that." To achieve that, Hughes and striker Johnson, who now has seven goals, will have to remain in top form as, like West Brom, Palace have a tough run ahead with their next four games coming against Birmingham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Hughes concluded: "It's a struggle for us, for West Brom and for a number of teams. We have got to try and beat these guys at home, nick something away and then we have got a chance. Psychologically, to be out of the bottom three, look at the table, that is a spur for us."

Goals: Hall (5) 1-0; Johnson pen (12) 2-0; Johnson (50) 3-0.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Boyce, Hall, Popovic, Granville; Riihilahti, Routledge, Watson (Sorondo, 83), Hughes (Lakis, 69), Kolkka (Freedman, 80); Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Torghelle.

West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Hoult; Gaardsoe, Moore, Albrechtsen (Greening, 24); Haas, Johnson, Scimeca, Gera, Robinson; Kanu, Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Horsfield, Hulse, Kuszczak (gk), Inamoto.

Referee: M Messias (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Crystal Palace: Johnson. West Brom: Albrechtsen, Moore, Robinson.

Man of the match: Hughes

Attendance: 22,922.