Gayle storms Palace to victory
Dwight Gayle's first-half hat-trick eased managerless Crystal Palace's woes as they cruised past Walsall 3-0 in the Capital One Cup.
The striker made light of the Eagles' chaotic start to the season with a clinical treble to seal the game before the break.
It was a comfortable and controlled victory for Palace and caretaker boss Keith Millen, who took charge for the third time after the departure of Tony Pulis almost two weeks ago.
And any future manager would have been impressed with Gayle as the hitman opened his account for the season by dispatching the Saddlers.
The 23-year-old had made brief substitute appearances in the Eagles' opening two defeats in the Barclays Premier League but marked his first start with two unerring finishes and a fine free-kick.
Ashley Grimes hit the post and had a goal disallowed for the Sky Bet League One Saddlers, who have now won just three times in their last 24 games.
Gayle started up front with Glenn Murray as Palace made nine changes from their 3-1 defeat to West Ham on Saturday.
Wayne Hennessey started in goal and Paddy McCarthy captained the side as only Damien Delaney and Barry Bannan retained their places.
Walsall replaced James Baxendale with Romaine Sawyers in their only switch from their 0-0 draw with Leyton Orient.
Walsall made a bright start as Hennessey claimed Billy Clifford's free-kick but the Eagles caught the Saddlers napping on seven minutes.
Adam Chambers was penalised for handball and Adlene Guedioura's quick free-kick found Gayle racing clear to arrow a fierce shot beyond Richard O'Donnell.
Walsall had style but lacked substance and despite seeing a lot of the ball failed to create a serious chance.
Clifford shot straight at Hennessey, yet Palace were comfortable against their lower league hosts.
And they made their quality count on 25 minutes when Gayle doubled the lead.
Murray was hauled down by the flailing Chambers and his strike partner drilled under the wall to beat O'Donnell from 25 yards.
With a comfortable lead Palace relaxed and Bannan shot over as they exploited the gaps in Walsall's backline.
Guedioura began to pick apart the hosts as Palace took control and the Saddlers faltered.
And Gayle completed his treble four minutes before the break when he latched on to Jerome Thomas' pass and fired a 12-yard shot into the corner.
At 3-0 it was game over but Grimes did curl against the post five minutes after the break as Walsall threatened a fightback
Murray flashed an effort wide from 25 yards before Grimes had a goal disallowed for offside with 19 minutes left and Tom Bradshaw shot at Hennessey.
Palace hit cruise control though, happy to see the game out and keep enough in the tank ahead of their trip to Newcastle on Saturday.
Chambers nodded wide with nine minutes left and Andy Taylor's free-kick flew over but Palace negotiated the closing stages with minimum fuss.