Saturday, 13 October 2001
Nationwide League Division 1
Selhurst Park
Attendance: 20,009
Ref: Neale Barry
Crystal Palace
Aki Riihilahti, Jovan Kirovski, Clinton Morrison, Wayne Brown (OG)
4 (2) - (0) 0
Matt Clarke
Steve Vickers
Subbed 46m
Tony Popovic
Hayden Mullins
Yellow 56m
Jamie Smith
Julian Gray
Aki Riihilahti
Goal 79m
Simon Rodger
Subbed 58m
Jovan Kirovski
Goal 42m
Dougie Freeman
Subbed 82m
Clinton Morrison
Goal 33m
Dean Austin
Sub (36 46m)36
Alexanders Kolinko
Steven Thomson
Sub (8 58m)8
David Hopkin
Sub (9 82m)9
Tommy Black

For half an hour this was as tight as might have been expected. The commitment was fierce, there were chances at both ends and you would not have bet much on the outcome.

Then Palace scored twice in 10 minutes to seize the initiative, they never looked back and added two late goals for a handsome success.

Wimbledon, after their early flourish, can have few complaints. They were second best all over the pitch, with too many players accepting defeat long before the end.

Palace had taken advantage of some of the division's lesser lights to collect maximum points from their four previous matches with a handsome 13-2 goal ratio. This one, however, was the start of something rather more testing - six games in 19 days, all against teams nursing promotion ambitions of their own. Their manager, Steve Bruce, knows that October could quite easily define the club's season.

Wimbledon came fresh from a 4-0 mauling of Manchester City - a third successive away victory which hinted that, like last season when indifferent form at Selhurst left them short of the play-offs, they prefer being on the road to sampling home comforts.

For them, yesterday was neither here nor there; tenant against landlord in conditions more suited to high-summer pre-season training than a passionate south London derby with winter approaching.

Not surprisingly the tackles were flying in and Neale Barry, the referee, had to cool things with a booking for Andy Roberts for whipping away the legs of Palace's Julian Gray.

Gray, showing the ability to get round the back of the defence from his position on the left of midfield, was certainly up for it. So, too, was Wimbledon's Patrick Agyemang, who carved open the left of the Palace defence before keeper Matt Clarke forced him away from a dangerous position.

Palace's response was immediate. Jovan Kirovski was denied by Kelvin Davis racing out of his goal, Clinton Morrison's follow-up shot was blocked and when the ball came loose for a second time, Gray struck the top of the bar.

That was the signal for Palace to take a firm grip. With 32 minutes gone Kirovski, an American international, released Morrison, who struck his ninth goal of the season with a precise low, angled effort across Davis and inside the far upright.

Ten minutes later, Dougie Freedman, who started the afternoon with 10 goals to his credit, turned provider, exploiting space on the right flank for Kirovski to drive in.

Palace made sure in some style after 79 minutes, Kirovski setting up Aki Riihilahti for a sweetly-struck 30-yarder into the top corner. An own goal by Wayne Brown, who headed Kirovski's cross into his own net six minutes from the end, made it four.