View From the South – Crystal Palace vs Birmingham City

The latest match report from Bazza with his View From the South.

I cannot believe that I am not reporting an emphatic and I mean EMPHATIC win for the Blues this morning. Birmingham were superior in every department of the game last night except one; finishing when we were profligate and they were woeful at best and non-existent the rest of the time.

I went to the game with my youngest son with the tickets that I had originally purchased when the game got snowed off. The drive was a much shorter one from my home in Surrey and I’m glad to say that the rush hour traffic held no demons and we were able to park up easily a short walk from the ground. I have to compliment the Palace catering on their footie pie which was by far the best I have tasted anywhere in a long while. Fortified by that and an overpriced bottle of Foster’s we took our seats.

Carsley was left out and we had a changed look with Stephen Carr making his debut at right back, Jaidi reinserted into the centre-half berth next to Ridgewell and Murphy. The midfield looked well balanced with Seb Larsson back in his right sided role, Bowyer and Fahey in the centre and the exciting Sinclair on the left. Carlos Costly started for the first time up front with Bent. Following an initial flurry from the home side when they forced three corners in the first five minutes Blues rapidly gained control and started bossing the game. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the front two worked together and Blues looked dangerous for the first time in weeks going forward. A glorious chance came along about 35 minutes in when a beautiful curving cross delivered by Larsson allowed Bent a free header about eight yards out. He had time to size it up and power up the neck muscles. Although the cross was coming in from slightly behind the striker, there was little excuse for the subsequent failure to hit the target. The ball went wide and the chance begging.

Immediately before half-time was the time to press the self-destruct button not once but at least three times as misplaced control and passes, thumping the ball into other players; you know the sort of thing led to a comedy show around our box. The worst moment however, was courtesy of Maik Taylor whose kicking was dodgy all night, when with a simple goal kick, he contrived to pass the ball out to their waiting centre-forward who was so surprised he dithered, attempted to pass to a colleague instead of belting it back from whence it had come. It would have been a travesty and we cannot expect Sheffield United on Saturday to be anywhere near as profligate. Talking of which, early in the second half Carlos Costly wasted the best chance of the game. An exquisite through ball gave him time to take a touch, set himself, wait for the keeper to commit himself and dink it over the top of him towards the yawning net. Executed perfectly except for one thing – WIDE! Arrrrrrrgh! I could not believe what I was seeing. We were slaughtering this hapless team 0 – 0.

Palace were reduced to ten men when Nick Carle was rightly sent off for a simply dreadful stamping tackle on Cameron Jerome who had come on for Costly a few minutes before. Misses from Bowyer, Fahey and Jerome followed as the second period came to a close as Blues peppered Speroni’s goal. Late on, Birmingham still nearly tried to present all the spoils to totally undeserving opponents nearly getting caught out by a suicidal square ball from Ridgewell to Jaidi who had to sprint to get to the ball only succeeding in slamming it against the forward. Once again our hosts messed up their efforts to provide the perfect chance and Ridgewell escaped his blushes by doing what he should have done in the first place launching it! Then there was a needless foul on Neil Danns (their best player on the night I thought) 25 yards out and central. Luckily, they clearly had no free kick specialist and the nudged free kick resulted in the attempted drive being easily blocked.

I am bitterly disappointed that we did not claim all three points here. The strikers should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves that they have failed to cap an otherwise fine performance, Blues best by far for many weeks. We looked so much better with a proper full back in the right-sided berth and Jaidi had a solid game I thought. Fahey drifted out of the match in the second half but otherwise played well. Bowyer was excellent and Larsson much more effective in his best position. I think we will have to play differently against Sheffield United on Saturday. I would keep the back four as they are, Carsley if fit will play and I would be tempted to play Damien Johnson with Larrson and Bowyer both suspended. The front two apart from the chances they missed caused Palace problems and on the grounds of lack of choice I would probably play the same pairing as Jerome hardly set things alight when he came on against the most lumbering defenders I’ve seen in the Championship all season.

This was two points dropped and no mistake. The miss by Carlos especially; I hope and pray that it will not be as ‘costly’ as it was last night come May. If we miss out on automatic promotion by a point or goal difference that is the moment I will undoubtedly remember above all others.


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