Puncheon boosts Palace survival bid

AFP| Last Updated: Apr 13, 2014, 00:27 AM IST

London: Crystal Palace are within touching distance of sealing Premier League survival after Jason Puncheon`s strike clinched a 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Pulis`s side secured their third successive victory thanks to Puncheon`s cool finish with 14 minutes remaining at Selhurst Park.

The Eagles are now seven points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand on their struggling rivals at Everton in midweek.

If Palace do complete their escape then boss Pulis deserves to be mentioned as a potential manager of the year candidate for his remarkable work at the south London club, who looked relegation certainties when he took over from Ian Holloway in November.

Villa have lost four successive league games and will be looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three, who are just four points behind.

Villa almost took the lead when Grant Holt`s header was turned goalwards by Gabriel Agbonlahor, but Palace forward Cameron Jerome was able to clear off the line.

Palace had a penalty claim turned down after Mile Jedanik`s short free-kick worked the ball into Yannick Bolasie and the winger went to ground under pressure from Holt, but referee Howard Webb waved play on.

Pulis`s team were building a head of steam now and Adrian Mariappa`s cross was headed just wide of the far post by Marouane Chamakh.

Villa tested Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni for the first time through Agbonlahor`s right-foot curler early in the second half.

Jerome had scored only once in his last 37 games for Palace and Stoke and the burly striker`s confidence in front of goal was predictably low.

Given a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan parried Bolasie`s deflected shot into his path, Jerome could only hit the underside of the bar from close-range.

Bolasie was at the heart of another dangerous moment when Palace thought they had been awarded a penalty after his cross hit Villa defender Ciaran Clark and rebounded into Guzan`s hands.

Palace appealed for handball and Webb pointed to the spot before speaking to one of his linesmen and changing his mind.

There was no need for Palace to rue that decision for long as they took the lead in the 76th minute.

Bolasie unhinged the Villa defence with yet another teasing cross and Puncheon took a touch to turn Ryan Bertrand before lashing in his sixth goal of the season.

Villa boss Paul Lambert sent on Andreas Weimann and Marc Albrighton for the last eight minutes.

But Puncheon should have sealed the points when he broke the offside trap before firing against the post from a tight angle.

Weimann almost made Puncheon pay for that miss moments later, but Speroni produced a fine save to preserve the points.