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Terry's Baggies Blog

POINTS WIN PRIZES ...NOT GAMES IN HAND

13-03-2008

It was the first of Albion’s three games in hand, but they missed the chance to cash in with a poor performance against Crystal Palace, much to Terry Wills’ disappointment.

“All along I’ve said the League has to our main priority” - Tony Mowbray’s calm assured pre match assessment of the Baggies so far successful season that’s hoisted them within one game of an FA Cup Final and promotion back to the Premiership.

Players also stressed the need to concentrate on closing the gap at the top of the table BUT judging from the dreary performance against Neil (he hasn’t a friend in the world) Warnock’s Crystal Palace side the majority of Baggies supporters must have felt the thought of that upcoming Wembley Semi Final appearance against Portsmouth HAD been playing on their minds.

Team news. Two changes from the Bristol winning side. .Zoltan Gera for Chris Morrison and Kevin Phillips for Roman Bednar.

From the start, why do Albion always appear to struggle in the opening stages (?), they appeared ill at ease. .Sloppy passing, loose marking, a lack of vision.

The ingredients were all in the mixing pot.

The main danger to Palace came via the powerful running of Ishmael Miller who in full flight takes some stopping, Raiding down the left flank he caused numerous problems and gradually the Baggies began to dominate. Not totally as Palace were always dangerous especially down the left flank where Jared Hodgkiss was having difficulty in coping with the Palace wide men.

Thankfully the reliable Martin Albrechtsen, Leon Barnett and Paul Robinson were on hand to snuff out any serious threat BUT for all that the Eagles movement and accurate passing could never be underestimated.

It was Robbo’ who eased the tension. He surged forwards, spotted Kevin Phillips, crossed a great ball, and the ‘Predator’ calmly did the rest.

His 20th strike of the season and the 200th  career League goal in all. How Baggies fans wished he’d spent his entire career at the Hawthorns!

It had been a stop-start frustrating sort of game. Palace being more than happy to claim ‘fouls’, thankfully waved aside by Referee P. Walton, but then as they were managed by Mr Warnock was this so surprising!?

Five minutes from break and off limped Chris Brunt to be replaced by James Morrison.

Murmurs of discontent at the break, OK a goal to the good but apart from the threat of ‘Tiny’ up front Albion hadn’t posed that much threat. Message… “Must do better in the second half”

Surprisingly ‘Kim’ was waiting to start immediately after the break replacing James Morrison who’d suffered an injury which few people appeared to have seen.

Again a slow start, Palace pushing forward aided by a series of long ball tactics, and not to be outdone, Albion decided to follow suit. Result? Unattractive football doing little to encourage roars of ‘Ole-Ole’-.More “Oh no-Oh no!

A one goal lead is rarely comfortable as proved in the 55th minute when Palace striker Victor Moses’ took advantage of some ‘invisible’ defending to level the scores.

Curses from Albion fans. Reflection for Tony Mowbray and looks of frustration on faces of Baggies players while the small pocket of Eagles supporters chanted “There’s only one Neil Warnock”.  (THANK HEAVENS FOR SMALL MERCIES!)

Albion hadn’t been playing well. The normal free running creative play of Zoltan Gera, Robert Koren, and Jonathan Greening was absent and being truthful despite pushing forward I had the awful ‘gut’ feeling if there was to be a winner it would come from Palace who’d begun to dominate the vial midfield area.

What was impressive was the display from Do-Hoen Kim who at every opportunity ran at the Palace defence, passed the ball well, and was ever willing to have a crack at goal.

A last substitution, Luke Moore for Zoltan Gera and with the Baggies realising they were in danger of dropping valuable promotion points it became a case of ‘Shoot on Sight’.

Powerful long range efforts from ‘Tiny’ Miller, after he’d blasted way over the bar from closer range chances, had the Palace keeper struggling to hold the ball cleanly but ‘sadly’ he just had sufficient time to throw himself on top of the sphere as Baggies players vainly tried to push the ball home for what we hoped would turn out to be a ‘winning’ goal.

Palace themselves also threatened danger and with Dean Kiely’s kicking (as always, causing fans to hold their breath in apprehension) at times being wayward, or should I say Skyward, there was no guarantee we’d even share the points.

Three minutes added on time. Scrambles in the Palace goal area “Come on you Baggies’ roars from the crowd as corner followed corner but judging from his failure to clear the first defender this certainly isn’t a strong point of our new South Korean playmaker’s game.

All that was left was the sight of Baggies players slowly walking off the field, the sound of ‘muted’ boos from some disappointed fans, and for me the stark realisation that the first of our three games in hand had only realised one point.

Still in a ‘healthy position Still two games to the good and if won would take Albion back to the top of the league.

But then isn’t better to have points in the ‘bag’ rather than games in hand?

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