Kuqi proves worth at last as Palace reach heights

Crystal Palace 3 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online

Shefki Kuqi's remarkable revival of fortunes has had the same effect on his side, Crystal Palace, who after a slow start to the season are now among the play-off places. The former Blackburn striker, who manager Neil Warnock maintains will be sold next month as the club cannot afford his wages, hit a superb volley to put Palace ahead and on their way to a fourth Championship win in five games at Selhurst Park last night.

Kuqi's stock had fallen so low he was reduced to training with the youth team, but an injury crisis prompted his recall in September and he now has five goals to his name. Craig Beattie, the man Warnock will attempt to buy permanently from West Bromwich with the money he saves from offloading Kuqi, thumped in the second goal before half-time with Southampton in disarray.

Southampton survived a scare in the first minute when Nick Carle burst into the area but left-back Rudi Skacel came across to make a vital challenge. The referee Darren Deadman waved away Palace's appeals for a penalty, and did the same at the other end when the Saints striker David McGoldrick took a theatrical tumble in the area.

Kuqi broke the deadlock in fine style in the ninth minute when Nathaniel Clyne floated the ball into the penalty area. The Saints centre-half Alex Pearce misjudged the flight, allowing the Finn to control the ball on his chest and volley over Kelvin Davis and into the net. Six minutes later Beattie doubled Palace's lead with a superb angled drive.

A Saints rally saw a Bradley Wright-Phillips' shot blocked by Fonte and Jordan Robertson forcing Julian Speroni to tip his shot around the post but, with a quarter of an hour to go, Paul Ifill scored Palace's third from the edge of the box shortly after coming on as substitute.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Clyne, McCarthy, Fonte, Hill, Carle, Watson (Derry, 30), Oster (Butterfield, 48) Beattie, Kuqi, Scannell (Ifill, 66). Substitutes not used: Lee, Moses

Southampton: Davis, James, Perry, Pearce (Wotton, h-t), Skacel, Surman, Lallana, Cork, Wright-Phillips (Gasmi, 81), McGoldrick, Robertson (Mills, 69). Substitutes not used: Bialkowski, Paterson.

Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).

CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE, PAGE 47

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