Crystal Palace captain Fitz Hall has admitted the competition for places in the Eagles defence is giving boss Iain Dowie plenty of selection headaches.

The ex-Southampton centre-back was recalled to the side for the defeat against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday at the expense of Darren Ward, who recently lost his regular starting place to the returning Tony Popovic.

But with Mark Hudson and Emmerson Boyce also in contention for the two centre back berths, Hall admits every player is under immense pressure not to have any off days if they want to remain in the side.

Hall said: "We definitely relish the competition. Wardy played last week and he played very well, so it was a big decision for the manager to put me back in.

"Everyone's got to be on their game because they know if they're not they won't be playing."

Dowie has not had the opportunity to deploy a settled back four this season due to the injuries to full-backs Danny Butterfield and Danny Granville, which has forced the Palace boss to play Emmerson Boyce as an emergency left-back with Mikele Leigertwood filling an unfamiliar right-back spot on recent games.

The lack of continuity at the back may point to the alarming total of 26 goals conceded in the 22 games so far this season, which includes the two strikes at Plymouth on Saturday one which was conceded after only 12 seconds.

The 25-year-old feels letting in the early goal was a big setback for the Eagles in their attempts to take control of the game, but feels his side recovered well.

Hall said: "Obviously an early goal puts us down straight away.

"I thought for most of the game we kept possession without really getting in behind them too much.

"We had most of the possession, most of the play and we just needed that cutting edge."

The Palace skipper admitted the 4-4-3 formation used by Dowie over the last two games to deploy his three first choice frontmen Andrew Johnson, Dougie Freedman and Clinton Morrison was not as effective as hoped and the Eagles improved after the Palace boss switched to a more customary 4-4-2.

Hall said: "When we went 4-4-2 it was better, we got in behind them a couple of times but we didn't manage to score. But AJ had a shot that hit the post.

"We're disappointed at the end of the day but without that first goal who knows what would have happened?"

The third away defeat in a row leaves the Eagles in 11th place in the Championship table, but only three points behind Wolves who currently lie in the bottom play-off place.

However, a good run over the Christmas period where the Eagles have four games in eight days, could see Palace make significant strides to the higher end of the table, meaning that Christmas and new year celebrations will have to be postponed.

Hall added: "They're definitely on hold.

"It's not about Christmas for us players.

"It's all about the football at this club, which is how it should be."