A Game Of Two Halves
Well everyone has their good days, and Blues certainly had one of them in the first 45. I and the rest of the 17,000 crowd were treated to one of the best halves of football I have ever seen (and that is saying something). This performance is up there with the 5-0 thrashing of Pompey in 05-06, and the first half of the games against both Chelsea and Man United last year.
After such a poor performance against Burnley last week (I was one of the unlucky few to witness the performance), it was vital that we bounced back in style against a resurgent Palace side out to cause an upset. Franck Queudrue, one of the few high points from the Burnley game, was recalled to the side in place of Murphy, and Jerome got the start he craved...on the left wing. The absences of both Quincy and James McFadden are suspicious as nothing was heard in the build up surrounding possible injuries.
Blues started well, and continued in that vein for the remainder of the half. So often for Blues nowadays, if we start a half well, we usually go on to give a performance to be proud of.
From the off we played nice football and this brought back memories of the second half against QPR. The passing was superb, the movement excellent, and we were a real threat. Balls were put towards Jerome who won his headers and was immediately surrounded by one (or more) of Agustien, Phillips or O`Connor. Both Larsson and Agustien frequently broke forward from midfield to join the strikers and make us a potent force.
While Blues started with a few wayward shots from the likes of Larsson and Carsley, these opportunities were followed up by two superb strikes by the impressive O`Connor which both hit the frame of the goal.
The first half ended with Blues firmly on top, but unable to get the vital breakthrough. News at half time filtered through that Wolves were behind, and Reading were winning, but neither really mattered if Blues came out and performed to the level that they had in the first half. However as the second half wore on it was clear that the great, passing game that been witnessed in the first period had given way to a more direct approach.
It soon became clear that Blues had lost that spark, and those who had particularly impressed in the first period (O`Connor, Jerome and Agustien) seemed to lose their influence upon proceedings. While Queudrue continued to impress, the game started to lose its rhythm. As the fans got more and more frustrated, things on the pitch did not improve. While Palace showed very little as an attacking force (not sure that Maik Taylor even had a shot to save), they were strong in defence, as they did everything possible to try stop Blues from breaking the deadlock.
As we entered stoppage time, it appeared that Palace were to succeed. Blues had lost their cutting edge without Quincy and McFadden, and they were going to have to settle for a point. However a good cross by Parnaby was flicked on (just!) by a combination of Bent and Ridgewell to Phillips. With a wall of white ahead of him, he appeared that he could do nothing but miss, yet Super Kev had other ideas. He shaped his body and tried to curl the ball into the bottom left hand corner. While this was unsuccessful, the keeper could only palm the ball against the chest of the waiting O`Connor, and the ball rolled into the goal.
St Andrews went crazy, as Alex McLeish must have breathed a sigh of relief. After a poor performance at the weekend, Blues managed to bounce back and get a deserved victory over a side who had come for a draw. My man of the match was Queudrue, who was exceptional in his distribution and his tackling, with special mention also going out to Garry O`Connor who had one of his best performances for Blues.
A game of two halves it was, but no-one will care anymore. Three more points, top of the table, job done.
I must finish this piece by mentioning a Blues legend...Geoff Horsfield. It was a shocking piece of news to hear of his illness, but it was great for the fans to see him at half time, to pay their respects to a legend. Feed the Horse...