Crystal Palace boss Dougie Freedman says criticism of Wilfried Zaha comes from the opposition running scared of his tricky winger.

The 19-year-old took the plaudits after two wonder goals disposed of Wolves in the Championship on Tuesday night, and he has since been called up by Stuart Pearce for the latest U21 squad to take on Serbia in the Euro 2013 play-offs.

However, after the 1-0 over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, Zaha was criticised by defender Zat Knight for "conning the referee" into giving a penalty - from which Glenn Murray scored the decisive goal.

Knight said: "I think he [Zaha] was making the most of it. He is a tricky customer and he has conned the referee."

However, Freedman jumped to the defence of a player he has known and trained for almmost five years.

The Scot said: "Unfortunately Zat Knight is not a coach and does not understand the game in terms of a coach.

"He was obviously disappointed with the penalty and sometimes a player can give an opinion which distances himself from a mistake.

"I think when Zat Knight looks at the replay, he'll know that when you tackle with your wrong foot and when you lunge and don’t take the ball, you’re giving the ref no option but to give a penalty and that is what he did.

"I would not take Zat Knight’s comments too strongly. The criticism comes from being a top player, you get booed from the crowd and maybe put down by other managers and players because they do not know how to stop you."

And Freeedman gave a veiled warning to the rest of the Championship, saying: "Zaha is getting fitter every week, he is training with a good intensity every day. I was coaching him whe he was 14, I've known him four or five years and I have seen him rise through the ranks and into a very good young player.

"Over the past few months is maturing into a very fine young player. He has a lot of potential and hopefully he will fulfil it."

He added: "He scored a couple of great goals against Wolves, but the most pleasing thing about the Wolves game was my players' reaction.

"Wolves are a physical team and they did a lot of kicking. But I was very proud of my players, especially Johnnie Williams and Zaha who were getting kicked all over the place.

"They had no protection from the referee but they did not react, they just kept on playing their stuff.

"We went 1-0 down and again there was a quick response from the team, so we have players responding well and the team responding well, which is very pleasing from a coaches’ point of view."