Saturday saw Crystal Palace visit St. Andrew’s and become the next victims of Chris Hughton’s terrific attacking side. After a disjointed start the home side finally got a hold on the game and it took them just twenty-one minutes to break the deadlock. Picking up the ball outside the area, Chris Burke cut inside and produced a fine shot that curled into the net. The front runner for player of the season also has a handful of goal of the season contenders too, after adding this fine effort against Palace to his tally of impressive long range goals.
Just over a minute from the restart and Blues were two goals to the good; Burke was involved again, this time provider for Keith Fahey whose superb looping shot left Julian Speroni helpless as the ball smacked the post before crashing into the back of the net. On fire Blues looked to be going on to score more, with the Palace defence unable to cope with the attacking display being put on by the St. Andrew’s outfit.
And there wasn’t long to wait before Blues found the back of the net again as just ten minutes after Fahey’s goal they were at it again; this time David Murphy the scorer, who found the back of the net for the third time in as many games to put his side three goals to the good.
Palace then scored an impressive goal of their own just before the break, with Owen Garvan reducing the deficit for the Eagles just before the half time whistle was blown.
After what was arguably the best first half performance we have witnessed from Blues this season, the second half started with the visitors having the upper hand, with Blues taking their foot off the gas momentarily with an important game away to West Ham on Monday in mind.
Jordon Mutch came close to putting the Blues out of sight when his free kick was chested over the bar by Speroni, but the score stayed at 3-1 for the third game in a row and put a nice cushion between Blues and the play-off contenders below them.
No time to rest as Blues headed to the Boleyn Ground for an all-important game against West Ham, in which the home side realistically needed to win if they were to keep up their push for automatic promotion. As such it was the Hammers who began the game with impetus, leaving the visitors no choice but to defend for their lives, barely able to get out their own half in the opening stages of the game.
Yet it was Blues who took a surprise lead just before the half hour mark. After coping resiliently with the Hammers pressure, the visitors mounted an attack with culminated in a fine long range effort to add to their increasing tally of impressive goals. Jordon Mutch found the ball at his feet 25 yards out and managed to fire the ball past Robert Green who didn’t even move.
A shock to the system for the home side and a real boost for Blues who have been so clinical of late. Just three minutes later, Marlon King found himself one on one with Green and doubled Blues’ advantage, sending the Blues players wild and the travelling Bluenoses at the other end of the pitch into delirium.
There was time for West Ham to get back into the game though, with Ricardo Vaz Te scoring a header from a corner just before half time. But just as they did in their last game away from St. Andrew’s, Blues responded just moments later by increasing their goal cushion once again; as Chris Burke’s scuffed shot from a corner managed to find its way into the back of the net to send Blues in at half time with a 3-1 lead.
The second half pressure from West Ham was expected, and it was only a matter of time before they got back into the game. Carlon Cole, after an impressive second half performance, took advantage of the space given to him inside the area and was able to control and pick his spot before duly slotting past Boaz Myhill.
In search for an equaliser West Ham pulled out all the stops and, agonizingly for Blues, they got their reward on the 89th minute. Goal scorer Burke handled the ball inside the area and Vaz Te stepped up to salvage a point for the Hammers, smashing his penalty home. Deserved for the home side it may be, but Blues should feel disappointed dropping two points so late on in the game after leading for so long. Nevertheless, with results going their way yesterday Blues have an even healthier cushion as they sit pretty in fourth place with just four games to go.
Three points in an all important home fixture against Bristol City on Saturday should all but seal a play-off place depending on results elsewhere, with an away trip to Ipswich following the home fixture, and tough games against Brighton and Reading to follow.