Stoke City 1 Crystal Palace 3: McAnuff maintains Palace promotion dream

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The Independent Football

Suddenly, Crystal Palace look comfortable again on their well-trodden path to the play-offs. With Jobi McAnuff scoring one and making two, they consolidate their top-six place by extending an excellent away record now showing one defeat in nine trips.

Victory stretched their lead over the seventh-placed Preston North End to six points and came despite a "miss of the season" contender from Michael Hughes, who hit the bar when presented with an open goal four yards out by Andrew Johnson in stoppage time.

Four days before the board meeting that could end Johan Boskamp's reign as the Stoke City manager, Palace had to overcome spirited resistance, though, with Gabor Kiraly making six fine saves.

There was also a sharp cutting edge at the other end, however, as there usually will be when Johnson is around.

On a bitter evening Stoke appeared fully committed to improving a dire record of six goals in 12 matches, so much so that they left the back door open for McAnuff to drive wide and then be denied by Steve Simonsen.

The breakthrough came on the half-hour, Emmerson Boyce's superb cross being turned into his own net by Mamady Sidibe under pressure from McAnuff.

Josip Skoko lobbed the 47th-minute equaliser after Sidibe helped on Broomes' throw but Hughes' run led to McAnuff scoring with a right-foot drive that deflected off Clint Hill.

Then Johnson, with his 14th goal of the season, secured Stoke's ninth home league defeat. He outpaced Hill to reach McAnuff's through-ball and finish expertly despite Simonsen's rapid advance.

"It was a difficult start but the response after the equaliser was the turning point," the Palace manager Iain Dowie said. "I felt we were very much in control after that and played some terrific football. I'm disappointed we haven't scored four or five in the end."

Stoke City (4-5-1): Simonsen; Hoefkens (Buxton 25 min), Duberry, Hill, Broomes; Sidibe, Brammer, Russell, Skoko, Gallagher (Sigurdsson, 71), Bangoura. Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Junior, Kopteff.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Kiraly; Boyce, Hall, Ward, Borrowdale; Riihilahti, Watson (Leigertwood, 84), Hughes, McAnuff (Soares, 86); Johnson, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Freedman, Reich.

Referee: T Leake (Lancashire).