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'My professional lads are too hot to handle'

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PALACE briefly returned to the top of the Championship last Saturday after a well-deserved 3-0 win over arch-rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.

However, Cardiff City beat Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday to go back to the summit thanks to a 1-0 win and the Welsh club are just one point ahead of the Eagles.

With both sets of supporters in good voice in SE25, Palace's afternoon was helped after just eight minutes when Brighton defender Lewis Dunk received a straight red card for bringing down man of the match Yannick Bolasie on the edge of the box.

But it was former Seagulls striker Glenn Murray who turned out to be the visitors' tormentor with his 16th and 17th goals of the season.

And Owen Garvan capped off a great day at the office with the third from the penalty spot after Murray had been fouled by Gordon Greer.

"I was glad I was in my dugout because obviously Gus [Poyet] would have been very disappointed with the way things went against his team, but I felt we earned that with the skills of some of my widemen," said Eagles boss Ian Holloway.

"What I'm learning about our two widemen is that you think you've got them and before you know it, they're past you.

"What pleased me more than anything was what we did after the sending-off. We actually controlled the game, which is very difficult against a team like Brighton and it took us a while because they are very good with the ball.

"But I was delighted with the professionalism of my lads. Some ten men can hurt you, but we managed to nullify that and looked ultra-professional.

"Glenn Murray was ill in the morning before the game and wasn't going to play, but we managed to get him out there.

"It was a fantastic cross, he got his eyebrows on it and before you know it, it's going to be a hard task for Brighton with ten men.

"The whole thing felt really good as that was a good team we managed to beat."

After a cautious start to the contest from both sides, the main talking point of the first half came courtesy of Dunk's sloppy ball control early in the game.

Right-back Bruno Saltor played a ball across to the centre-back outside the box, but his first touch was poor, which allowed Bolasie to nip in on goal, but the young stopper cut him down to size and was given his marching orders.

And from the resulting free-kick on the edge of the box, Garvan curled an effort over the wall but it struck the crossbar.

Bolasie then warmed the gloves of Tomasz Kuszczak with a thunderous shot on the right side of the box soon after, while Garvan went close again with a first time shot which went just wide.

Bolasie took aim again on 26 minutes when his long range effort took a huge deflection and looked to send Kuszczak the wrong way, but the ball just whistled past the post for a corner.

However, the deadlock was finally broken six minutes before the break. And you just knew who was going to come up with the goods.

A corner was whipped in with pace from Bolasie, and Murray rose above everyone else to glance a header home.

Just a minute into the second half, Brighton went extremely close to equalising when Ashley Barnes' through-ball beat the offside trap and found Mackail-Smith, who burst clear on goal but his shot struck the outside of the post.

It was a huge let-off for Palace as the visitors looked to start well, but their rhythm was interrupted on 53 minutes when the home side grabbed their second of the afternoon.

An attempted pass through the Brighton rearguard took a big deflection into Murray's path and as the striker went around Kuszczak, he was brought down by the custodian and awarded a penalty.

And the former Seagulls favourite stepped up to notch his 17th goal of the season with ease.

However, Murray opted against grabbing a hat-trick after 71 minutes when another penalty was given after he was nudged in the face by Greer as both jumped for the ball.

This time, Garvan stepped up and found the bottom corner despite former Manchester United reserve keeper Kuszczak going the right way.

Murray was then replaced by Aaron Wilbraham, but it was Damien Delaney who had the next chance when he scooped the ball over inside the box following Bolasie's cut-back down the left.

It proved to be the last chance of a pulsating encounter, and Palace claimed a worthy three points, before walking off to a huge ovation from the home faithful.

On Saturday, much of the focus will be on Holloway as his former employers Blackpool visit Selhurst Park (3pm).

'My professional lads are too hot to handle'


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