Johnson double wreaks revenge

Crystal Palace 2 - Birmingham City 0
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The Independent Football

A pair of penalty goals by Andy Johnson earned Palace their first double of the season and provided a wonderful lift away from the relegation zone as well as a reminder to Birmingham that he was the player who left St Andrews as a makeweight in the £4m signing of Clinton Morrison. Not for the first time since he left, Birmingham were left regretting Johnson's departure as he advanced his goal total for the season to 18.

A pair of penalty goals by Andy Johnson earned Palace their first double of the season and provided a wonderful lift away from the relegation zone as well as a reminder to Birmingham that he was the player who left St Andrews as a makeweight in the £4m signing of Clinton Morrison. Not for the first time since he left, Birmingham were left regretting Johnson's departure as he advanced his goal total for the season to 18.

Not having had much to cheer this season, Palace supporters were able to indulge themselves in a feast of booing until they were able to celebrate their team going in front just before half-time. The Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, who departed Selhurst Park in the most acrimonious of circumstances in 2001, expressed the opinion that the argument over this was "water under the bridge" but the storm of booing which greeted his appearance, flanked by security stewards, indicated the tide of discontent was still flowing strongly.

Clinton Morrison, replacing the suspended Emile Heskey, and Julian Gray also came in for vilification as former Palace players, especially when they combined well early on for Morrison to pull his shot a yard wide.

It was some time before Andy Johnson managed his first contribution, but it was a dangerous one. Cutting into the penalty zone from the left, he fell under Kenny Cunningham's challenge but the referee, Phil Dowd, was not impressed. Nor did the official take kindly to Jermaine Pennant's prolonged moan at the inability to win a free-kick, and when the Arsenal loan man persisted in complaining he was shown a yellow card.

Though Wayne Routledge, starting on the left and then switching wings, was his usual effervescent self and Michael Hughes used the ball well from midfield, Palace found it difficult to make progress against Birmingham's solidity and experience at the back until, with half-time looming, they won a penalty. Tom Soares was adjudged to have been barged off the ball by Matthew Upson and when Andy Johnson drove the spot kick past Maik Taylor it was their first shot on goal. Celebrations were cut short when Johnson was required to take it again because of a transgression. To a marksman of Johnson's nerveless skill this was no problem and he duly clocked up his 17th goal of the season.

Intelligently marshalled by Hughes and clearly boosted by their lead, Palace were the sharper and hungrier side in the second half. When a Mikele Leigertwood shot was charged down, Emmerson Boyce got in a lob which Taylor pushed over for a corner.

After Gabor Kiraly's good stop from a Walter Pandiani header Palace retaliated at once, a fine ball from Hughes freeing Dougie Freedman to test Taylor, who next foiled the eager Andy Johnson, operating at full pace as ever in pursuit of a long pass.

However, there was no denying the striker in their next attack. Again, it was a perfectly judged volleyed pass by Hughes which offered him a sight of goal, only for Upson to commit another clumsy foul. The penalty award was a formality, as was Johnson's thunderous spot-kick.

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