Thorpe starts Rangers' rout of lethargic Palace

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The Independent Online

Crystal Palace's Premiership stay is over before it has begun. That, at least, is the gleeful verdict of QPR's supporters following their side's competent 3-0 demolition yesterday of the newcomers to the big- time.

Crystal Palace's Premiership stay is over before it has begun. That, at least, is the gleeful verdict of QPR's supporters following their side's competent 3-0 demolition yesterday of the newcomers to the big- time.

Rangers are also newly-promoted, having come up into a First Division which was promptly renamed the Coca-Cola Championship during the summer. Also benefiting from the lessons of a run-around against Ajax in an earlier friendly, QPR set about their London rivals from the first minute.

So inferior were Palace that their manager Iain Dowie declined to appear for a post-match chat. His assistant, Kit Symons, admitted: "We were poor and if we play like that in the Premiership we will be in big trouble. But a kick up the backside can sometimes be a good thing and we would much rather it be today than in a fortnight's time away to Norwich."

QPR's manager Ian Holloway did not agree with his club's fans, stressing: "This result should not be read into. It is ludicrous if you think the scores matter." But he expressed satisfaction with his team's showing. "I am really pleased how fit they are, pleased with their focus. All I was looking at was work rate and things we have spoken about all summer."

Symons and Holloway were in agreement that a disallowed penalty in the 22nd minute probably changed the course of the game. Andy Johnson, scorer of 28 goals for Palace last season, fastened on to a precise through ball from Dougie Freedman and rounded QPR's third-choice keeper, Jake Cole, who was making his debut.

Johnson went sprawling as Cole tried to block him, but referee Steve Tomlin ordered Johnson to get up. He had changed his mind later, however. Symons claimed: "The ref admitted he made a mistake. If we had got that it could have been a very different story." In Holloway's view it was "an absolute stonewall penalty, so blatant".

Thus reprieved, Rangers continued to dominate with their slick passing and eagerness for possession. Palace's new Argentinian goalkeeper Julian Speroni, signed from Dundee, had already pulled off one fine save from Tony Thorpe's 30-yarder, but he was lucky to see an inswinging corner by Gino Padula come back off the bar.

He was also fortunate after saving with his legs to see the rebound fall awkwardly for Kevin Gallen, who slipped the ball to Martin Rowlands, whose effort was deflected for a corner. But his luck ran out when, just before half-time, Palace's new defender from Luton, Emmerson Boyce, played a poor ball which was snapped up by Gareth Ainsworth. A swift pass to Thorpe and QPR were in front.

QPR made six changes for the second half but soon they were two in front, through one of those newcomers. Speroni came to the edge of his area to throw a clearance but the ball spun to Paul Furlong, who promptly clouted it back over the stranded keeper's head.

Palace made wholesale substitutions without any effect. In fact, it seemed to do nothing for their tempers and there was the unusual sight in a friendly of Gallen and Darren Powell being booked after a clash. It clearly wasn't Palace's day when the defender Danny Butterfield went down with a hamstring injury and their efforts to at least claim a goal were so weak as to produce jeers.

Then, to complete the humiliation, Kevin McLeod got away down the left seven minutes from the end and hiscross enabled Gallen to side-foot home on the volley.

Holloway, the perfectionist, criticised his team for slackness after that third goal. "I was delighted for 83 minutes," he said, "but devastated by the last seven." He felt that Palace were still suffering post-promotion elation. "They deserve a pat on the back," he pointed out, "but maybe some of them are still patting themselves on the back. But I don't think that was them firing on all cylinders." Palace supporters will certainly hope not.

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