A Papa Whoppa

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December 16, 2012 by Made In Brum

Blues 2 Crystal Palace 2

Being two nil down at home to the league leaders doesn’t offer much cause for optimism. Despite this season not being a great one, I’ve learned not to write this Blues team off. Surely all these ‘they don’t wanna play for Clark’ rumours have been put to bed now? The fightback’s wouldn’t happen if that was the case. Goals from Nikola Zigic and Papa Bouba Diop clawed Blues level.

Crystal Palace are blessed with the Championship’s most potent attack. The leagues top scorer Glenn Murray, either side of him Andre Moritz and Wilfried Zaha. Behind them, Yannick Bolasie and Kagisho Dikgacoi… Proven Championship players who have been performing superb, some would even say miracles, this season. Stopping them would be a feat in itself from a Blues point of view.

Palace were the better side, but Blues weren’t a million miles away. The visitors had more of the ball in threatening positions, and squandered a guilt edge chance in the opening minutes when Murray blasted over the bar from close range after a lucky bounce.

Marlon King’s drive went wide and Peter Lovenkrands curler was saved low down by Julian Speroni.

Blues were showing some decent stuff. Paul Robinson passed to Wade Elliott who returned the favour with a back-heel as the full-back was overlapping. Robinson’s cross was cleared by the Palace defence. You felt that Blues needed a bit more width because with the wide men, Elliott and Chris Burke, the play was too narrow.

The most pleasing aspect of today’s game was the performance of youngster Callum Reilly. He’s 19 years old, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the maturity he displayed. Reilly was the catalyst of most positive things Blues did, and alongside Papa Bouba Diop, there was a sense of solidity that hasn’t been evident this season. Both of them harassed and chased the Palace midfielders, none of this standing off nonsense.

The feeling was that Palace would score soon. And they did in the 39th minute. Bolasie’s low cross was bundled in at the near post by Murray. It wasn’t a shock, but considering Lovenkrands had missed a clear cut one-on-one just seconds before, it could have been so different. But football has a habit of hurting you and if you don’t take your chances, you get punished.

The early second half pressure from Palace was with intent. They smelt a second, and three points. Lee Clark opted for a change. Rob Hall was bought on for Elliott. Then just minutes later, the bad injury luck kicked in again as Paul Caddis went down injured. Mitch Hancox replaced him. Just as Blues look to be reducing the congestion in the medical room, another one turns up. Nothing new for Caddis this season.

On the hour, the Eagles doubled their advantage. Jonathan Parr picked up the ball and drilled it across goal for Murray to smash home. Mount Everest was the task facing Clark’s men, the usual story. But don’t write off this team.

Lovenkrands looked to have been tripped by Damien Delaney. The referee initially pointed to the spot, before consulting his assistant. The Dane was booked for diving. Although, he tweeted later that he tripped and the referee had admitted he shouldn’t have been cautioned.

Nikola Zigic reduced the deficit just 30 seconds after coming on with his fort touch. He headed Marlon King’s cross past Speroni. Game on!

Reilly, who was simple but effective in possession, was proving his worth. And his partner Diop almost took Owen Garvan out of the game with a shoulder barge. The Wardrobe was adding some much needed steel to the ranks.

A few half chances came Blues’ way and a string of corners. But the one that counted was taken by Rob Hall. His cross was powerfully headed home by Diop. 2-2!

See, remaining positive does work, and to be fair, the fans stuck with the team today. Scoring a third was too much to ask as King volleyed over and hit a late free-kick into the wall. But I suppose coming from two down against the leaders is a positive point.

With another home game against Burnley next Saturday which marks the half way point of the campaign, it is time to let the football do the talking. We know they’re capable.

Thinking about this result, you realise what a good comeback it was. Yes, Blues shouldn’t keep going two goals down at home, but they certainly don’t crumble. They keep playing positive football and bring themselves back into games. The home form is slowly improving. But for some people, the glass is always half empty.

Let’s hope the meeting between the board and Paladini’s consortium (scheduled for tomorrow) can shed some light on the takeover situation. There’s no doubt in my mind that Peter Pannu will ask Paladini to increase his offer, but let’s hope the Italian and his backers don’t run a mile. Its about time we had a bit of stability off the pitch.

Blues ratings- Butland 6. Caddis 6. Caldwell 6. Davies 6. Robinson 7. Burke 5. Diop 7. *REILLY 8. Elliott 6. Lovenkrands 6. King 5…SUBS USED- Hall 6. Hancox 6. Zigic 7.

Match report by Rob Wildey.

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