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]