JAMES VAUGHAN delivered the telling blow against one of his former clubs as Mark Lillis waved the caretaker manager’s magic wand to conjure a much-needed three-point haul against Crystal Palace.
Town downed the high-flying Eagles with a mixture of energy, enthusiasm and sheer will to end the winless run which cost Simon Grayson his job – Vaughan’s 65th-minute strike bringing a first victory in 13 Championship games.
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It was exciting and nail-biting in equal measure – and just the lift the club needed as the search continues for the Grayson’s replacement, and the man who can ensure second-tier survival then take the club forward.
There were scouts from 12 of the 20 Premier League clubs in the stand as Town made one change from the side who drew 1-1 with Leicester in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Former Palace favourite Neil Danns, on loan from Leicester and ineligible against his parent club, came in for teenage midfielder Jordan Sinnott, who was on the bench.
Danns’ fellow Leicester loanee Jermaine Beckford was also among the substitutes as Town, playing a rare Wednesday night home match, kept faith with James Vaughan and Lee Novak.
Palace, with only one win in eight league games and eager to re-ignite their promotion challenge, fielded star winger Wilfried Zaha for the first time since he was sold to Manchester United for a potential £15m and loaned back for the rest of the season.
Danns was soon involved, claiming possession and playing in Jack Hunt, whose run down the right had Palace scrambling to deal with the early danger.
Town were working hard to try to contain Zaha and his fellow winger Yannick Bolasie, but when the latter was fouled and he free-kick swung in, keeper Alex Smithies had to be alert as skipper Peter Clarke’s headed back pass was caught by the strong wind swirling around the stadium.
Scott Arfield’s speculative shot from distance was comfortably held by Julian Speroni before Bolasie drilled in a low effort which Smithies pushed to safety.
Referee Carl Boyeson’s eagerness to let the gamer flow was frustrating the home fans, who felt Town should have had a couple of free-kicks, but it was certainly end to end action.