Dwight Gayle scored five as Crystal Palace’s Development Squad ran out 6-0 winners over Brentford in their Under 21 Professional Development League Two South game at Tooting and Mitcham’s KNK Stadium.
The 24-year-old, who at £6 million is Palace’s record signing, opened the scoring in the 6th minute and added two more before half-time, either side of Paddy McCarthy’s header as the hosts led 4-0 at the break.
When Gayle scored twice in two minutes to make it 6-0 just before the hour it looked like the score-line could have got embarrassing for the youthful Brentford side but Gayle and strike partner Glenn Murray were withdrawn soon after and Palace couldn't add to their six.
The Bees named a very young XI for the game with four Under 18’s and an Under 17 in the side and only two of the XI with first-team league experience.
By contrast Crystal Palace’s XI boasted more than 800 Football League appearances and in Murray and Gayle two strikers who have scored goals at every level of the game.
That quality up front was on show from the off as Gayle cut inside Lionel Stone and fired a shot over from the edge of the box but it was not long before he did find the back of the net; Raphaël Calvet brought down Gus Sow inside the D and Gayle stepped up to plant the free-kick past Mark Smith.
The Bees were playing into a fierce wind in the first-half and were finding it difficult to retain possession as Palace pushed high up the pitch forcing them to go longer into the breeze.
Jerome Binnom-Williams was doing an excellent job of keeping Josh Clarke, who in recent weeks had been a great outlet for Brentford, quiet meaning Jon De Souza’s side were struggling to make any impression on the game in the opening stages.
However the host’s total dominance almost led to their downfall after 11 minutes as a slack pass from McCarthy allowed Charlie Adams, one of the few Brentford players with first-team experience, to free Montell Moore but Sow managed to recover and get a toe to the ball as Moore was about to shoot from 10 yards.
That missed opportunity was made to look even more costly as Gayle grabbed his second two minutes later, turning and finishing clinically into the bottom corner from Hiram Boateng’s pass.
After that it was all one-way traffic for the hosts as Sow shot over from 25 yards before McCarthy grabbed a goal as he headed home Kyle De Silva’s corner from 10 yards.
Good work from Murray and Gayle found Jake Gray but Richard Bryan managed to get back in to block on the line.
McCarthy whistled a shot past the post from 35 yards and Smith made a good save from close-range to deny Gayle his hat-trick.
At the other end Moore curled a shot tamely into the arms of Price from 25 yards while Martin Fillo did at least extend the former Brentford keeper with his free-kick from the edge of the box.
From the resulting corner Calvet volleyed a shot wide from the edge of the box but seconds later it was four.
Price’s long goal kick sailed on the strong breeze and from Murray’s flick on Gayle raced through and delicately chipped Smith to complete his hat-trick.
Playing with the wind in the second-half Brentford started the opening stages brightly and Price made a fine block save to deny Fillo from 10 yards.
Palace created very little in the opening 10 minutes of the half but when Murray did well to create space on the left and roll the ball across it was clinically finished by Gayle to make it 5-0.
Less than a minute later Gayle made it six when he dispossessed Joe Maloney in midfield drove into the box and then fired, via a deflection, past Smith into the bottom corner.
Six goals up with more than half an hour to go Palace withdrew their front pairing of Murray and Gayle but the chances continued to come.
Smith, who had been given no chance by any of Palace’s goals up to that point, made a fine save to turn away Gray’s free-kick.
Boateng volleyed wide after good play by Binnom-Williams and Smith was alert to clear the danger as Gray broke in behind The Bees defence.
Substitute Luke Croll somehow headed against the bar from four yards after good work by fellow substitute Reise Allassani and Boateng shot wide from 25 yards.
Allassani then hit the bar with a header when it looked easier to score and Sullay Kaikai headed wide from a corner but it didn’t matter as Palace ran out comfortable winners to keep their end of season Play-off hopes alive.
: Lewis Price; Ali Gordon, Paddy McCarthy (sub Sullay Kaikai 65 mins), Michael Chambers, Jerome Binnom-Williams; Jake Gray, Hiram Boateng, Gus Sow, Kyle De Silva; Glenn Murray (sub Reise Allassani 60 mins), Dwight Gayle (sub Luke Croll 60 mins)
Subs not used: David Gregory, Morgan Ferrier
Goals: Gayle 6, 13, 44, 55, 56; McCarthy 20
Booked: Boateng 81
Brentford: Mark Smith; Lionel Stone, Raphaël Calvet, Gradi Milenge, Richard Bryan; Josh Clarke, Joe Maloney, Jermaine Udumaga (sub George Pilbeam 78 mins), Martin Fillo; Charlie Adams; Montell Moore (sub Michael Onovwigun 78 mins)
Subs not used: Melvin Minter, Fabian Rowe