Emmerson Boyce hopes to feature in a Palace shirt before the end of the season after he sustained a metatarsal injury on the same day he finally signed a new contract extension.

The 25-year-old is targeting the game against Charlton on the last day of the season as his comeback.

A freak training ground accident led to him cracking a metatarsal in his foot and being ruled out for six weeks.

Boyce said: "One moment I was happy because I had just signed the contract. Then I went home with a cracked bone in my foot."

It was a cruel blow for the full-back who has been waiting since October to finally seal his contract extension and was looking forward to focusing fully on his football.

Boyce said: "I signed the contract and thought I can concentrate on football now and bring out the best in me.

"But these things happen and I've just got to think of Blackie and Nicola Ventola because at least I've played some part of the season, the injury could have been a lot worse."

Boyce will have to wear a special airboot' for four weeks which will act as a cast and will then go for another x-ray to see how the bone is healing before he returns to light training.

But at least the end to months of contract uncertainty can give the Palace man some sort of comfort, as Boyce openly admits it did provide an unwanted distraction.

Boyce said: "It is a huge weight off my mind, you start doubting yourself the longer it goes on. You're thinking is it ever going to get signed?' but I'm glad it's all over."

The extension means that Boyce will have another year added on to his two-year contract he signed last summer meaning his deal will now run to summer 2007.

But for now Boyce is ready to get behind his teammates for the Premiership run-in and hopes by the time he has recovered, Palace would have made their Premiership status safe.

Boyce said: "I've just got to knuckle down and cheer the lads and do the best you can, like Darren Powell and Danny Butterfield have done when they were injured.

"Hopefully by the time I get back we'll be safe."

l Crystal Palace left back Gary Borrowdale has also agreed a contract extension, which will commit the 19-year-old to Palace until summer 2008.