Palace victory is Taylor made

Stoke City 1 Crystal Palace 2
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The celebrations were worthy of the winning goal in an FA Cup final, never mind a humdrum First Division fixture on a bleak December day at the Victoria Ground, but Gareth Taylor's joy was understandable.

The Welsh international had failed to score in 12 appearances for Crystal Palace since his pounds 1.6m transfer from Bristol Rovers and had just suffered the indignity of celebrating a "goal" only to see it disallowed for offside. When he soared at the far post to head home Marc Edworthy's cross for Palace's second goal, the striker's jubilation was unconfined.

Taylor's travails have mirrored Palace's season. Twelve players have left since the summer and with the management under instructions to ditch the team's direct style in favour of a passing game, it should have been no surprise that they would take time to find their feet.

However, the indications are that a corner may have been turned. Palace have lost only once in their last six matches and there were signs on Saturday that the team is starting to gel at last. Leon McKenzie, who partnered Taylor in attack, is a teenager of rich promise, while Dougie Freedman confirmed his recent improvement with a polished display that included his fifth goal in as many matches.

Yet most encouraging of all for Palace was the form of Andy Roberts. The club's record pounds 2.3m signing from Millwall had an outstanding game in defence alongside Jason Cundy, who has arrived on loan from Tottenham and was a more than competent replacement for Chris Coleman, the latest to join the exodus from Selhurst Park.

It was a day Stoke will want to forget. A sequence of 15 matches with only one defeat had taken Lou Macari's team into fifth place, but here they were disappointing and rarely looked likely to break down Palace's five-man defence. Almost the only plus point was the intelligent play of Mike Sheron, who celebrated his first start since his move from Norwich with a spectacular late consolation goal from 25 yards.

Goals: Freedman (24) 0-1; Taylor (68) 0-2; Sheron (87) 1-2.

Stoke (4-4-2): Prudhoe; Clarkson, Cranson, Sigurdsson, Sandford; Keen (Peschisolido, 60), Wallace, Gleghorn, Potter; Sheron, Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Dreyer, Carruthers.

Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Martyn; Edworthy, Roberts, Cundy, Gordon, Vincent; Houghton, Pitcher, Freedman; Taylor (Boere, 80), McKenzie (Dyer, 86). Substitute not used: Matthew.

Referee: K Breen (Liverpool).

Bookings: Stoke: Clarkson, Cranson, Sandford. Crystal Palace: McKenzie, Roberts, Taylor.

Man of the match: Roberts.

Attendance: 12, 090.