Crystal Palace 2-0 Town
Saturday, 3rd Feb 2007 20:56
Goals from Leon Cort and Paul Ifill condemned the Blues to a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. Town had the better of the first half, but again conceded goals from corners and lost their way as the game progressed, despite Palace's Tom Soares seeing red for a violent challenge on Dan Harding.
Alan Lee and Richard Naylor both returned from injury with Gavin Williams and Sito dropping out. Lee joined Jon Walters in a two-man attack. Lewis Price took his place between the sticks despite speculation that he is carrying an injury. Former Blue Shefki Kuqi was in the home side's starting line-up.
Lee hit the game's first shot in the fourth minute, Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly claiming easily. For Palace, Cort headed Mark Kennedy's freekick straight at Price.
Walters flicked the ball up and shot over for the Blues, then Dan Harding's mis-hit cross almost caught Kiraly unawares and the Hungarian keeper did well to get down to push the ball round his near post.
From the corner, the ball was cleared by Cort and then played back into the box, eventually falling for Lee close in, but the Irishman shot over.
Town were enjoying most of the game on a very bumpy surface, although there was concern amongst the Blues' defenders that the linesman at their end of the field had missed at least two obvious offsides due to the low and very bright sun being in his eyes.
On 18 Fabian Wilnis required lengthy treatment for a knee injury having been caught late by Dougie Freedman, but eventually carried on. Soon after, Lee failed to connect properly with a cross from the right and Legwinski couldn't get his shot in from Roberts's return ball.
Owen Garvan made the pass of the game in the 27th minute playing Alan Lee in on goal. The striker took the ball into the area but, with Matthew Lawrence appearing to have hold of his shirt, failed to cleanly strike his shot and Kiraly saved. The Town striker was incensed and felt the Palace defender's input was worthy of a penalty. Referee Martin Atkinson thought otherwise.
Town were continuing to have the better of the match with Palace's efforts at goal restricted to wild lashes well wide from distance. Just before the half hour, Jon Walters went off for treatment and bandaging to a head wound.
The recent signing from Chester was still off the field when the Blues showed one of their weaknesses from earlier in the season; conceding goals from corners. Price tipped a Carl Fletcher shot over the bar, then Kennedy sent the ball in from the right and Cort headed back across past keeper and into the net.
Kuqi shot wide after a lengthy run, prior to Kennedy hitting a shot straight at Price. Cort clashed heads with Walters again and Town's new signing underwent further treatment.
Lee beat Kiraly in the air in the 41st minute but the ball failed to fall for a Town player inside the box.
In injury time, a Jaime Peters cross appeared to catch a defender on the hand inside the area, although a penalty would have been harsh. Just before the break, Kuqi got away from Naylor inside the Town half but Wilnis was back to dispossess his former team-mate with a well-timed challenge.
The Dutchman was replaced with Alex Bruce at the end of a first half from which the Blues deserved at least to be on terms. Alan Lee in particular will have felt he could have put his side in front.
Tom Soares hit the first shot of the game well over Lewis Price's bar in the 49th minute, then two minutes later former Sheffield United man Paul Ifill put his side further in front. Again it was a corner which caused the Blues problems, Town repeatedly failing to clear their lines and Ifill eventually finishing from close range.
On 56 Roberts sent in a freekick from deep on the right which went through a crowd of players and was claimed by Kiraly. Four minutes later, Jim Magilton made a double switch, George O'Callaghan taking over from Gary Roberts, while Jaime Peters made way for Danny Haynes.
The Blues went looking to get a goal back but looked less confident on the ball than they were earlier in the game. Too often crosses hit the first defender or too much time was taken before a pass was made or a shot taken.
However, left-back Dan Harding managed a couple of efforts, both of which were blocked. The corner was cleared but returned into the box from where Walters stabbed wide of goal when he looked odds-on to score.
Price caught a Cort header from a corner at close range, then pulled off a better save to stop another distance strike from Fletcher. Soon after, Kennedy's shot was deflected over.
Shefki Kuqi almost sealed his side's win with a typically bustling run through several Town defenders, The Finn shot across Price who tipped the ball out for a corner. Meanwhile, George O'Callaghan and Tom Soares clashed off the ball in the centre circle, both players receiving a yellow card.
Soares had clearly lost his composure and only a few minutes later launched himself at Dan Harding's legs with the Town defender and the ball appearing to already be out of play. Referee Martin Atkinson showed no hesitation in showing the midfielder a straight red card.
With 12 minutes left, Alan Lee picked up his 10th yellow card of the season for dissent after complaining at length about a linesman flagging him offside. The striker now misses the Leicester and Watford games. The Irishman's subsequent 20-yard strike was took close to Kiraly.
Not long after, Shefki Kuqi was applauded off by both sets of fans and was replaced by another ex-Blue, James Scowcroft, who was greeted with boos by some Town supporters.
In injury time, George O'Callaghan shot wide, but it was already very clear that there was no way back for the Blues.
A disappointing performance from Town, who again showed they can hold onto the ball for long periods but failed to turn that domination into goals. On this occasion there were more chances than in previous matches with Alan Lee particularly profligate, although he was probably fouled on one occasion as he was about to shoot, while Jon Walters also missed a good opportunity.
There was a lack of composure in and around the box throughout the afternoon with too many poor crosses, lacklustre finishes or players caught in possession in potentially threatening areas, while Leon Cort won virtually everything aimed forward aerially.
As in the home game against the Eagles in August and on too many other occasions this season, it was a failure to defend set pieces which lost the Blues the game. Boss Jim Magilton will have plenty to think about before next week's home game with Leicester.
Town: Price, Wright, Harding, Wilnis (Bruce 46), Naylor, Legwinski, Garvan, Peters (Haynes 60), Roberts (O'Callaghan 60), Lee, Walters. Unused: Supple, Clarke. Att: 17.090.
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