Birmingham 3-1 Crystal Palace

Birmingham strengthened their grip on a play-off place in the Championship with victory over Crystal Palace.

Three first-half goals set the Blues on their way to a third straight victory.

Chris Burke twisted neatly in the area to curl home the first left-footed, before Fahey smashed a second into the top corner on his return to the Birmingham starting line-up.

David Murphy added the third with a fierce shot before Owen Garvan reduced the arrears with a long-range strike.

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Freedman optimistic despite loss

Birmingham showed no signs of fatigue despite playing for the 55th time this season, and their early control paid dividends when Burke fired them into the lead.

The midfielder turned on the edge of the area, gaining himself a yard of space, and his left-footed effort was too good for Julian Speroni.

Within a minute the Blues doubled their advantage as Burke laid the ball into the path of Fahey and he fired a superb shot into the top left-hand corner.

Murphy then picked up Burke's pass, drove into the penalty area and shot beyond Speroni, but Palace finally found their feet and Garvan drilled a sensational effort past Blues keeper Boaz Myhill just before the break to offer the visitors some hope.

The Eagles came out after the interval intent on putting themselves back into the game and O'Keefe's powerful effort was parried by Myhill, but goalmouth action was at a premium in the second half.

Hughton and his players will be more than happy though as they remain fourth in the table, six points above seventh placed Brighton.