Crystal Palace's record of six successive home wins came to an abrupt end last night as a distracted display saw them undone by one piece of opportunism from Albion's 34-year-old forward Bob Taylor.
Palace had begun the night just a point behind Wolves at the top of the First Division but they have now lost ground. Although they worked hard, their mental focus was never sharp a natural result, one would imagine, of the heightened speculation over the future of manager Steve Bruce, who said before this match that he would meet club chairman Simon Jordan in the next couple of days to discuss whether or not he would be moving into a new position at his old club, Birmingham.
When asked about the situation afterwards, Bruce reacted as if someone had sought his inside-leg measurement. "I'm not talking about that,'' he said quietly. He did hint, however, that Palace would be stepping up their attempts to find another striker to offer a variation on the partnership of Doug Freedman and Clinton Morrison. The pair have clocked up 20 goals this season, but became decreasingly effective in the second half as Albion's defence got their measure.
Bruce's counterpart, Gary Megson, was a little more expansive after what he described as his side's best result of the season so far. He added, paradoxically, that from the point of view of passing it was as bad a display as Albion had put on for a long time. But Megson was even more dismissive of opponents who had not failed to score in any of their previous eight home games. "I don't think they caused us any problems tonight. The best chances they had we created. At times it was Keystone Kops stuff.''
Albion may have provided the incidental comedy, but Palace left the field unsmiling. As early as the 15th minute they had appeared vulnerable as Uwe Rösler, making his debut for the visitors on loan from Southampton, had the opportunity to head his new side into the lead following Des Lyttle's cross. But the German could only nod the ball onto the bar and skied the rebound.
Palace's best chance came a quarter of an hour later when Freedman left three defenders in his wake before shooting wide. That, however, was their high point. As the second half wore on, their effectiveness wore off, and in the 62nd minute Taylor followed up a clearance from Russell Hoult and wriggled past Hayden Mullins and Gregg Berhalter to score the only goal.
Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Clarke; Austin, Popovic (Berhalter, 57), Mullins; Smith (Black, 69), Riihilahti, Kirovski (Routledge, 86), Rodger, Gray; Morrison, Freedman. Substitutes not used: Kolinko (gk), Hopkin.
West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Hoult; Sigurdsson, Moore, Gilchrist; Lyttle, Johnson, McInnes, Appleton, Clement; Taylor, Rosler (Cummings, 79). Substitutes not used: Balis, Jordão, Jensen (gk), Chambers.
Referee: S Tomlin (East Sussex).Reuse content