NEIL WARNOCK is hardly averse to a spot of hyperbole, but nobody argued when the veteran manager suggested yesterday that turning his Crystal Palace side from Championship cannon fodder into Premier League hopefuls has been the biggest achievement of his long managerial career.
When Warnock replaced Peter Taylor as manager in October, Palace were 19th in the Championship. Seven months on, they are now just three games away from a place in the top flight thanks to this consummate destruction of Burnley which booked their place in the play-offs.
“I can’t think of a better achievement in my career,” he said. “We now have a 25 per cent chance now and let’s see what happens.”
Crystal Palace goalkeeper, Julian Speroni got the ball rolling. His long kick was chased down by the jet-heeled Scott Sinclair, who was fouled by Barnsley’s veteran defender, Clark Carlisle. Referee Kevin Friend had little option but to award a penalty, while also showing Carlisle a straight red card. Ben Watson converted the spot-kick.
Burnley were still reeling from that seventh-minute goal when Palace doubled their advantage. Burnley failed to deal with Sinclair’s corner and Victor Moses was able to slot past Brian Jensen.
Palace added a third in the 37th minute. Tom Soares’ jinking run led to a pass to Clinton Morrison, who beat Jensen before feeding Soares, who converted at the near post.
Sinclair capped off an excellent performance with Palace’s fourth with a wonderful solo effort. Morrison got his reward for his display when he added a fifth.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-3-3): Speroni 7, Butterfield 6, Hudson 7, Fonte 6, Hill 6, Soares 7, Derry 6, (Fletcher 59, 6), Watson 8, Sinclair 8, Morrison 9, (Scannell 72, 7), Moses 7 (Ifill 32, 7).
Subs Not Used: Craig, Scowcroft.
BURNLEY (4-5-1): Jensen 5, Duff 6, Carlisle 3, Caldwell 6, Harley 5, Elliott 5, (MacDonald 70, 6), O’Connor 5, Alexander 5, McCann 5 (Mahon 81, 6), Randall 4 (Gudjonsson 46, 6), Blake 7.
Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Jordan.
REFEREE: Kevin Friend, 7. Got penalty and sending off right.
MATCH RATING: **** This match had everything. If Palace do get into the Premier League, their blend of youth and colourful manager will be a breath of fresh air.
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