Sullay Kaikai’s third goal in four pre-season outings two minutes from time snatched victory for a Palace XI against Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium.
The winger’s scintillating summer continued as he popped up with a last-gasp strike to grab the win for a strong Eagles side, with Roy Hodgson watching on from the stands.
His team had to do it the hard way though as they fell behind to an Alex Reid goal, but Jonny Williams’ well-taken finish brought the sides level before the interval, but the game deemed destined for a draw before Kaikai tucked home the winner after converting a teasing cross by Lokilo.
The game’s opening chance fell to the Belgian youngster who saw a close-range shot blocked by a combination of goalkeeper Paul Farman and Johnny Hunt, but the hosts began brightly and twice Ben Kennedy found the gloves of Vicente Guaita, firstly with a curling effort on nine minutes and then a low grasscutter that was heading towards the bottom corner.
But on 18 minutes the hosts’ industrious start saw them grab the lead. Some sloppiness in the box saw Pape Souare forced to hack the ball away to safety but it clattered into an opposition player and ricocheted into the path of Reid, who showed good composure to slot past a helpless Guaita.
The goal had fallen to the better team and Stevenage were inches away from finding themselves 2-0 ahead soon after. Some neat build-up play involving Mark McKee, Emmanuel Sonupe and Luke Wilkinson saw the latter’s shot cannon off Sam Woods and spin just wide, and from Joel Byrom’s resulting corner, Michael Timlin volleyed just over.
It took Palace until 35 minutes to click into gear and conjure up another chance when a delightful pass by Sullay Kaikai sent Lokilo scampering down the right, and after cutting the ball back to Jason Puncheon the skipper flashed a low attempt towards the target, but Farman’s fingertip diverted it away from danger.
But two minutes before the break, the Eagles grabbed an equaliser. Some neat play by Levi Lumeka got his side into the final third before he found Puncheon, who picked out Williams on the edge of the box and, on his first start of the summer, the midfielder drilled a low shot past the outstretched Farman and rippled the net’s bottom corner.
That strike saw confidence flow through Williams and Alexander Sørloth glanced a header wide from a decent cross from the Welshman on the stroke of half-time, but the interval and a rash of Stevenage substitutions stopped Palace’s rhythm and the second half saw little in the way of significant action, although Boro could have retaken the lead on the hour mark when a corner was nodded into Reid’s direction but he steered his header well wide.
Hodgson’s team were indebted to Joel Ward to keeping the scores level when he made an excellent sliding block to prevent Andronics Georgiou tapping home a Reid centre, but the second half couldn’t match up to the excitement the first produced and the visitors’ first chance of the second 45 came when Puncheon drove a low shot goalwards but it was easy for Farman to stop.
With 10 minutes remaining James Daly was a stud’s length away from connecting with a Souare cross, but once again an Eagles centre-back came to rescue when needed when Martin Kelly’s last-ditch challenge prevented Michael Donahue from snatching a winner for the hosts.
And that intervention proved crucial as two minutes from time Palace snatched victory. Lokilo’s pace saw him fly down the left wing and get into a good crossing position, and he took his chance to fizz a low centre across the face of goal, where Kaikai was perfectly placed to side-foot past Farman and continue his brilliant start to the campaign.
Stevenage: Farman (Appleyard 81), Wildin (Fraser 45), Henry (Nugent 63), Wilkinson, Hunt (Vankooten 45), McKee (Ferry 66), Byrom (Iontton 45), Timlin (Makoma 57), Kennedy (Campbell-Ryce 55), Sonupe (Georgiou 55), Reid (Donohue 69).
Palace: Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Woods, Souare, Puncheon, Williams (McGregor 69), Lumeka, Lokilo, Kaikai (Street 90), Sørloth (Daly 69). Subs not used: Tupper, O’Dwyer, Mitchell, Bryon, Robertson.