Palace’s development side warmed up for the under-21 play-off against Huddersfield Town by notching their eighth win from their last 10 games at Selhurst Park against Colchester United.
Left-back Christian Scales was the unlikely matchwinner as he grabbed the only goal of the game in an encounter that the Eagles were much the stronger side and showed their table-topping qualities despite not adding the goals to their three points.
It was a quiet opening half but one that Palace saw the better of, keeping their opponents under pressure for the majority of it. Keshi Anderson saw a free-kick fly over the wall before Reise Allassani then played a one-two with the striker and burst towards goal but just as he let fly a defender came across to block his attempt.
Anderson was looking lively in the opening half and he saw an effort saved well by James Bransgrove in the Colchester goal when he got on the end of a Jake Gray cross, and his strike partner Michael Phillips then forced the keeper into an excellent save when he curled the ball towards the bottom corner but a fully-stretched Bransgrove pushed it around the far post to deny him his first goal at under-21 level.
But that was as good as it got in the first half but after the restart the one-way traffic continued. Gray saw a low effort pushed out by Bransgrove before he beat away a Connor Dymond header from an Allassani corner which narrowly avoided the oncoming Anderson.
But the deadlock was broken on 65 minutes. Anderson received the ball on the halfway line and proceeded to embark on a fine run at the Colchester defence before slipping it to Scales who side-footed the ball into the bottom corner of the Holmesdale goal to grab his first goal of the season for the development side.
Searching for the second that would have put the game to bed, Gray thumped a fierce strike from 25 yards straight at Bransgrove and substitute Kian Flanagan nearly scored on his development debut but when picked out by Scales he screwed his chance wide.
Late on Luke Croll showed his threat from set-pieces again when he saw a header cleared off the line by Kieran Bailey but the three points were secure as Gary Issott’s side head into the play-offs with plenty of momentum.
Palace: Kettings, Collins, Magri, Dymond, Scales, Gray (Hoare 82), Sow, Black, Allassani (Flanagan 72), Anderson, Phillips (Bissaka 60). Subs not used: Pain, Croll, Berkley-Agyepong.
Colchester: Bransgrove, Stephens, Harney, James, Brampton, Jenkins, Woodyard, Lawrence, Bailey, Dunne, Curtis. Subs: Robinson, Carey-Sherrif, Tennent, Andrews, Lipman.