SUPER EAGLE MURRAY CHOPS DOWN FOREST
GLENN Murray's second-half strike was enough to hand Crystal Palace their first league win in eight attempts as they produced a fine smash and grab raid at struggling Nottingham Forest.
The Eagles were on the back foot for large periods of this Championship clash but, thanks largely to keeper Julian Speroni, they were able to hold on for a clean sheet and Murray's 56th minute winner secured all three points for Dougie Freedman's side.
Freedman shuffled his pack again after Tuesday night's defeat at Barnsley, making five changes from the starting line-up at Oakwell.
Stuart O'Keefe was rewarded for his excellent Carling Cup form with a rare start in the Championship, while captain Paddy McCarthy, Jonathan Parr and Mile Jedinak and Sean Scannell all returned to the team.
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Out went the injured Dekel Keinan, Darren Ambrose, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Peter Ramage and Jermaine Easter as the Eagles looked to find a formula that could deliver their first league win since their victory at Ipswich back in October.
For their part Nottingham Forest had gone into the game languishing in the division's relegation zone, but they did not look like a side who were struggling as they dominated the opening 20 minutes.
Indeed, it was only some desperate defending and some heroic goalkeeping from Speroni that kept Palace in the game as the hosts created chance after chance. First, Paul Anderson took advantage of McCarthy's slip to burst into the box but a fantastic block from Anthony Gardner prevented the midfielder from hitting the target as the ball deflected wide.
However, for the most part it was one man who prevented Forest from going ahead as Speroni thrice denied the hosts in quick succession.
The Eagles failed to clear the resulting corner properly, and Guy Moussi picked up the ball on the edge of the area and unleashed a fierce shot that the keeper only just reached after scrambling across his line.
Garath McLeary was causing a nuisance of himself in midfield and he twice tested Speroni with long-range efforts that the Palace shot-stopper again did brilliantly to keep out.
Freedman's side were struggling to get a foothold in the game, and a long-range effort from Murray that stung Camp's hands was all they could muster as the Reds dictated play.
Yet, crucially, the goal never came and Palace started to win their individual battles in midfield and, while they were unable to create many clear cut chances before the break, the visitors had at least turned the tide.
Right on the stroke of half-time Gardner almost gave the away side the lead, but his shot on the turn whistled narrowly over the bar after Forest had gone to sleep defending an Eagles free-kick.
Forest again started the brighter in the second half, and Radoslaw Majewski suggested it may be a long 45 minutes for the Eagles when he fired a warning shot inches over Speroni's bar within minutes of the re-start.
However, the whole dynamic of the game changed in the 56th minute as the Eagles took the lead. Wilfried Zaha's pass was perfectly weighted for Murray who controlled it perfectly before firing a low shot past the diving Camp into the bottom right hand corner. As the table would suggest, Nottingham Forest have been short of wins this season and their heads seemed to visibly drop after the goal went in, and Palace enjoyed their best period of the game. David Wright fired a shot over as the Eagles pressed for a second.
Forest briefly rallied before the end of the game, but despite a Dexter Blackstock free-kick that was well blocked by Murray and a Lewis McGuigan effort that sailed wide they never really threatened Speroni's goal again and after five minutes of added time the final whistle sounded to the joy of the Eagles travelling support.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Cunningham, Chambers, Morgan (Reid 20), Gunter, Anderson (McGugan 72), Greening, Moussi, Majewski (Blackstock 72), McCleary, Tudgay. Unused subs: Smith, Findley.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Clyne, Wright, McCarthy, Gardner, Parr, Jedinak, O'Keefe (Dikgacoi 77), Scannell (Easter 81), Zaha, Murray. Unused subs: Price, Ambrose, Martin.