Walking into the Sports Cafe in Glasgow tonight to meet BBSers Marshy and Gosling I can’t say I was particularly optimistic about the ninety minutes that was ahead of us. That didn’t really improve when the sleepy abode refused to turn down the music and let us watch the game with commentary.
At least our evening took a turn for the better when Ben Watson took advantage of some defensive uncertainty to head into an open goal from outside the penalty area on 24 minutes. We went into the break 1-0 up on the night, back level on aggregate.
The second half became a nervy, yet exciting affair, and 18 minutes from time we were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead after Tom Soares was upended in the box by Nick Carle. Just like Saturday Ben Watson took the penalty, but unlike Saturday this time he succeeded in only smacking the ball against the post. It was inches away from being a perfect penalty, but it wasn’t good enough.
(N.B. When you don’t want to watch something on a TV during a sporting event don’t go to a Sports Cafe. It’s impossible to miss any action. Trust me, I tried.)
We were still trying to win the game though, with a very attacking lineup on the field. However towards the end of the game we were tiring, and the game was nearly settled in normal time when City’s Lee Trundle hit the bar when he tried to lob Julian Speroni.
In extra time we appeared to visibly tire. Soon enough Trundle gave City the lead with a thunderous left foot volley, before Michael McIndoe sealed in the game in the second half with a howitzer of a free kick.
As the game petered away at least we had a team we could be proud of. At this point though I’d like to say how well Ben Watson played. He was simply immense, covering every blade of grass and being at the centre of our best attacks. If does leave in the summer (he is probably our most valuable asset at this point) I hope he isn’t remembered for the penalty miss, because he deserved far better than that on this night.
Bristol City 2-1 Crystal Palace (AET, City win 4-2 on aggregate) [BBC Sport]
Great, just like two years ago. Another bad time to pick to play badly at home in the first leg of a play-off semi final.
The good news? Despite our poor performance at least a 2-1 deficit is retrievable, unlike the mountain we gave ourselves to climb against Watford.
Texting my best friend back and forth during the first half we both agreed that Bristol City looked like the better team, and early in the second half that proved to be the case when Louis Carey gave City the lead from a cleverly worked free kick.
We didn’t appear to be troubling City too much, but then in the closing minutes came a lifeline. With Jose Fonte called upon to take up an emergency striker’s role he earned a penalty when he was brought down by Carey. Ben Watson – as has become his custom – stuck the penalty away well.
Unfortunately that wouldn’t be enough, as in injury time City’s David Noble scored the goal of his life from fully thirty yards, giving Julian Speroni no chance.
It isn’t an ideal situation, but at least we’re within touching distance. However to get anything at Ashton Gate we’re going to have to play a whole lot better than we did today.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Bristol City [BBC Sport]
Today is one of those days where I feel daft for worrying. Prior to kick-off at Selhurst Park and knowing that a win would assure us of a play-off place I somehow felt that we typically wouldn’t make it that easy on ourselves. But what do I know? I’ve only followed this team for eighteen years now.
So unusally for us we just about secured our win within the first ten minutes, as Clarke Carlisle was sent off in the sixth minute for a professional foul on Scott Sinclair and Ben Watson dispatched the resulting penalty. Two minutes later Victor Moses made it 2-0 and the game was effectively up.
Tom Soares made it 3-0 before half-time before Sinclair and Clinton Morrison brought the final score to 5-0.
So we’re in the play-offs having finished fifth. How big an achievement is it for Warnock? Let’s let him analyse that himself. “I can’t think of a better achievement in my career. To go from second bottom in November into the play-offs, never mind winning them, is a great effort from all the lads.”
Winning the play-offs would be even better. For that our first obstacle is Bristol City, who come to Selhurst Park next Saturday.
Crystal Palace 5-0 Burnley [BBC Sport]
Well, perhaps it was a bit much to expect us to win all our games in April, not that it makes today’s 2-1 defeat at automatic promotion-chasing Hull City any more bearable. That Hull’s winner from Ian Ashbee came in the dying minutes, and that it seemed to be so celebrated by Sky Sports News report Peter Beagrie really didn’t help matters. Earlier had Scott Sinclair scored Palace’s equaliser.
So what do we need to do now? Well the maths are simple and our destiny is entirely in our own hands. If we beat Burnley next Sunday at Selhurst Park we’re in the play-offs. Neil Warnock mused, “The pleasing thing is that it is still in our hands to make the play-offs. No-one can complain if we don’t make the play-offs, because we’ve given it a fantastic shot.”
Which I suspect doesn’t mean that he’ll be anything other than disappointed if we fail to win our last game of the season.
Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace [BBC Sport]
Who would have expected April to go this well? I know I didn’t, not with trips to Stoke, Watfod and Hull on the horizon. We started the month by beating Stoke, and after our solitary home game we have continued by beating Watford 2-0 at Vicarage Road yesterday.
Anyone who wasn’t there had the opportunity to see the action as the game was the featured match on The Championship this morning. Late goals from Paul Ifill and Victor Moses provided our margin of victory, leaving Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd to complain that his team “should have won 4-0.” Rrrrright.
Meanwhile Neil Warnock could only comment on how far the team has come since he took over. “I couldn’t see us scoring a goal never mind getting a win. We were in the mire but we have changed attitudes and gone on this run.” I find the reference to attitudes interesting as it is largely the same players we had prior to his arrival who have been on the pitch during the turnaround.
Watford 0-2 Crystal Palace [BBC Sport]
At a time in the season where consistency is key Palace (of all teams!) seem to have discovered it. Yesterday we beat Scunthorpe 2-0 at Selhurst Park, with first-half goals from Tom Soares and Clinton Morrison both securing another three points for us as well as relegating the visitors out of the Championship.
Neil Warnock was a happy man after the game, saying “We all know it’s going to go right down to the wire. We badly needed the three points and I would have settled for winning 1-0 and playing poorly. As it turned out, we played very well and could have scored more goals.”
Now come another two difficult games, as in the next two weeks we visit fellow play-off candidates Watford and Hull City.
Crystal Palace 2-0 Scunthorpe [BBC Sport]
Good evening everyone, got your breath back after that frightening second half?
Yikes, that took some sitting through. I was pretty pleased to be 2-0 up at half-time after goals from Tom Soares (ably setup by Scott Sinclair) and Jose Fonte (with a scorcher of a volley), although I might have changed that view after seeing us sit back and invite Stoke to attack us during the second half.
As it turned out all Stoke could muster in reply was their own thunderbolt from Glen Whelan, and while that provided us with an even more uncomfortable last few minutes it wasn’t enough to stop us from leaving the Britannia Stadium with three points.
Neil Warnock summarised the result by saying, “It’s not easy coming to Stoke, you know you are going to be very physically tested throughout. I thought we played some great football at times and we scored a couple of good goals too, which helped.”
Best of all, we’re back in the play-off places. With 4 games to go can we stay there?
Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace [BBC Sport]
Call it a personal thing, but when we don’t beat the team which was promoted through the play-offs I tend to think we’re underachieving. And despite what Neil Warnock claimed were two certain penalties we were denied a victory against last year’s league one play-off winners, Blackpool.
Today also saw the debuts of loan signings Scott Sinclair (from Chelsea – he was also booked for a supposed dive which Warnock disputed), Kyel Reid (West Ham) and Nathan Ashton (Fulham – he was substituted at half-time after taking a knock in the first half).
Unfortunately we now only have five games left, and three of those are away against teams in the top six. These games are at Hull (April 26th), Watford (19th) and Stoke City (next Monday night, live on Sky). It isn’t the run-in you want when you need points to break into the top-six.
Crystal Palace 0-0 Blackpool [BBC Sport]
Kind of typical late Saturday afternoon if (like me) you can’t get to a lot of games. Sky Sports News on, Soccer Saturday with all the updates. As is seemingly usual, we’re one of the last results to come in.
It’s about ten to five, I’ve given up on us coming back from 2-1 down when we’re taken to Hillsborough.
The sorrow in Scott Minto’s face is clear to see. We’ve equalised, thanks to Matt Lawrence. The bitter ex-Charlton man can’t believe it. Almost worth dropping two points for. I suspect that Neil Warnock – in front of the Wednesday fans who hate him – quite enjoyed that too.
Our other goal was scored by Ben Watson from a free-kick. For anyone who missed it on the ITV Championship Goals programme this morning let me tell you, it was a peach! It really showed what he is capable of from set-pieces. Hopefully we’ll see plenty more to come from him.
Sheffield Wednesday 2-2 Crystal Palace [BBC Sport]
After yesterday’s 2-0 win at home against Barnsley we’re now just a point off the play-offs again. It seems we’re coming into form at a good time, with Neil Warnock praising our, “great team spirit and a will to keep our own goal intact.” Both of our goals came in the second half, with the scorers being Tom Soares and James Scowcroft.
Can we continue on this run and manage to be in the top six at the season’s end? Let’s hope so.
Finally, in a footnote that might only interest me, Jon Macken again proved what a duff buy he was by returning and somehow not scoring against us. On top of that he was also booked and substituted. Magnifico!
Crystal Palace 2-0 Barnsley [BBC Sport]