Town 3-0 Crystal Palace
Tuesday, 16th Apr 2013 21:54
Frank Nouble scored twice and Aaron Cresswell the Town goal of the season as three late first half strikes saw the Blues to a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Portman Road. Palace dominated until keeper Julian Speroni gifted Nouble his first goal for the Blues on 37, then in first half injury time Cresswell slammed in a brilliant second, before another catastrophic error, this time from Peter Ramage, led to Nouble’s second. Mick McCarthy’s men comfortably saw out the second half.
Nouble and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas returned to the Town side with Michael Chopra and Jay Tabb, who suffered a knee injury during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Hull, dropping to the bench.
Palace named ex-Blue Damien Delaney as skipper, while former keeper Lewis Price was on the bench.
The visitors had most of the ball in the opening moments, keeper Scott Loach coming off his line quickly to claim ahead of Jonathan Parr in the second minute. Soon after, Parr saw a shot deflect wide off Wilfried Zaha.
Palace continued to dominate but with the Blues’ backline preventing Loach from being called into action.
On the quarter hour, Nouble broke away on the left and hit a shot across the face of goal when he ought to have played an early pass to Daryl Murphy, who was in space in the middle.
But the visitors were well on top overall and might have gone ahead in the 19th minute when Richard Stearman blocked a Glenn Murray header at the far post from a corner on the left. The Blues, however, were looking a threat on the break.
On 27 Emmanuel-Thomas shot over from a freekick taken quickly by Aaron Cresswell after Nouble had been fouled midway inside the Palace half. Moments later, left-back Parr was replaced by Jazz Richards having suffered an injury a couple of minutes earlier when challenged strongly but fairly by Stearman.
One-time Town target Joel Ward picked up the game’s first booking in the 33rd minute, then Guirane N’Daw joined him in the book within a minute after an aerial clash with Jonathan Williams.
The Blues went ahead in the 37th minute via a goal Palace keeper Speroni, a virtual spectator up to then, won’t want to see again.
The Argentinian failed to clear N’Daw’s nothing ball over the top from just outside his area, allowing Nouble to take it off him, take a touch and then stroke his first Town goal into an empty net before the Eagles’ backline could get back. The former Wolves man was jumped on by sub Anthony Wordsworth in front of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
As the game moved into five minutes of injury time, Williams shot wide by some distance at one end before more confusion in the Palace defence gifted the ball to Murphy, who was well tackled on the edge of the area.
But a second Town goal was only moments away, and what a goal it was. Cresswell received the ball from N'Daw on the left and just as he appeared to be losing control, unleashed a brilliant half-volley from just outside the area, which flew to Speroni’s left and arced perfectly into the top corner of his net for the left-back’s fourth goal of the season.
Incredibly, the Blues would score again before the break from another calamitous error in the Palace defence. The kick-off was exchanged by the strikers and played back to Ramage who got the ball stuck under his feet midway inside the Eagles’ half, allowing the ever-eager Nouble to dispossess him and roll his second of the game under Speroni.
Not long after referee Simon Hooper brought a remarkable 45 minutes to a close. For the majority of the half there seemed only one side capable of registering three goals before the break and that was Palace, but their extraordinary errors and one brilliant strike had all but sealed Town’s victory, and their Championship status for another season.
Prior to the goals, the visitors had had virtually all of the ball but once Speroni had made his disastrous mistake for the first, the Eagles seemed to undergo some sort of collective breakdown.
To Nouble’s credit, it was his pressure which led to the blunders which led to both his goals, which he took confidently, while Cresswell’s strike was probably the Blues’ goal of the season.
Palace boss Ian Holloway brought on Kevin Phillips, a man who has enjoyed scoring against the Blues throughout his career, for Williams.
Luke Hyam and Wilfried Zaha both picked up early yellow cards for fouls, then on 49 N’Daw sent Nouble, by now the Blues’ lone frontman, away on the left. The striker cut the ball back to the Senegalese international, whose shot was deflected for a corner.
Not long after, Delaney was booked for a foul on Carlos Edwards, the Irishman apologising to his old team-mate, then on 55 Emmanuel-Thomas’s name was added to an increasingly lengthy list for handball as he broke forward 10 yards outside the Town area. From the freekick, Loach saved well down to his right from Moritz.
Stearman blocked a Zaha shot after the on-loan Manchester United man had cut in from the left in the 57th minute, then Moritz curled another 25-yard freekick well over, much to the amusement of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
Palace had had most of the ball since the break with the Blues unsurprisingly happy to sit back on their lead. However, McCarthy’s men were looking a threat on the break, particularly through Nouble’s pace, and on the hour Murphy hit a half-volley wide after good work on the right from Edwards.
Wordsworth replaced Emmanuel-Thomas for Town and Aaron Wilbraham took over from Joel Ward for the Eagles as the game moved towards its final 20 minutes.
Loach saved well from Murray from the edge of the area on 70 but in the main the Blues’ back four were cutting out or blocking everything the Palace strikers could throw at them.
Town almost made it 4-0 in the 79th minute when Nouble chipped a cross towards Murphy, who felt he was fouled, the ball reaching Luke Hyam at the far post a few feet out, the midfielder just failing to get enough on the ball to beat Speroni, who saved.
Patrick Kisnorbo took over from Edwards for the final 10 minutes – the Australian’s league debut for the Blues - moments before Stearman was yellow-carded for a foul on Zaha just outside the box on the left. Phillips put the freekick well over.
In the final minute of normal time Nouble made way for Elliott Hewitt to a rapturous reception from the Portman Road faithful and words of praise from both McCarthy and his assistant Terry Connor.
Just before the end, Loach saved superbly from Murray, then Phillips struck the post with the rebound.
Moments later the final whistle went to confirm the Town win, and almost certainly their Championship status for another year.
Aside from Phillips’s late effort, there were few scares in the second half with the Blues seeing out the period in a professional manner having secured their lead – with plenty of help from the visitors – before the break.
Having lost 5-0 at Palace in November, that second half display illustrated how far Town have come defensively since then and 56 points – which have seen the Blues move up to a heady 13th – surely must be enough to confirm Championship status for 2013/14.
Town: Loach, Stearman, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Edwards (Kisnorbo 80), Hyam, N'Daw, Emmanuel-Thomas (Wordsworth 69), Murphy, Nouble. Subs: Lee-Barrett, Hewitt, Drury, Tabb, Chopra.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward (Wilbraham 69), Delaney, Ramage, Parr (Richards 29), Bolasie, Dikgacoi, Williams (Phillips 46), Zaha, Moritz, Murray. Subs: Price, Gabbidon, Marrow, Dobbie. Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire). Att: 17,656 (Palace: 1,398).
Photo: Action Images
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