The minority of Palace fans who needlessly booed Julian Gray on Saturday should cast their minds back to December 10th, when Crewe beat a Gray-less Eagles side 3-1.

Palace had won one in 11 league games and were lying in the bottom three. With Gray back in the side, Palace won the next two under Kit Symons and the winger has played every game since as Dowie's side won seven and drew two in 11.

Numerous factors have contributed to the remarkable revival, not least Dowie's inspirational regime and AJ's goal-scoring form.

But the left-sided position was a massive problem after Gray walked out in the summer, with AJ, Wayne Routledge and even Jamie Smith failing to fill the void.

His reluctant return may not inspire affection, any more than his inconsistent performances in the previous three years, but he came back a better player and has quietly made a huge difference.

The simple fact is that Palace need Gray more than Gray needs Palace as low summer bids from Charlton and Leeds showed.

Dowie is desperate to persuade him to sign a new contract, and was understandably furious on Saturday at the ignorance of some supporters.

Mullins, Derry and even skipper Shipperley have all been targeted by a certain section of home supporters this season, and Palace have only won six of 18 matches at Selhurst.

The away fans are fantastically supportive and Palace have won 8 of 17.

Saturday's game will give us a chance to see new £155,000 signing Mikele Leigertwood make his full debut in the place of the suspended Mark Hudson. Could be a blessing in disguise!

Join me on Saturday as Palace take on Joe Kinnear's resurgent Nottingham Forest at the City Ground from 2.55pm.