After two successive defeats to teams we, on paper, should have beat, a trip to a rejuvenated Crystal Palace team was really not a game many of us wished. However in typical Albion style, we all headed back home with three points after two goals early in each half made the difference on a lovely sun drenched afternoon in South London. With the Albion now eight points above the bottom three, this game could be a pivotal result for the season
Backed by a strong away following helped by the excellent free coach travel the club offered, all 2600 Albion fans on the one side at Selhurst Park were singing well past the final whistle and into Saturday night following our first away win since Leicester – doesn't that seem such a long time ago now?
Heading down from Bristol, I was very apprehensive following the last two games. After a couple of drinks around central London, we headed towards Selhurst Park via a couple of tubes and trains. It certainly isn't an easy ground to get to is it?
The only change in the team saw Victor Anichebe called back to the starting XI in place of Ideye Brown following the 3-2 loss to Leicester the week previous. A loss, it must be said, that still hurts even after the three points earned down in London. A week after the club's special Jeff Astle day, the man himself would have looked down on yesterday's performance with a smile. In fact, we didn't even have time to find our seats before we were already 1-0 up thanks to James Morrison, who evading Jason Puncheon, headed the ball into the net following an in swinging corner from Chris Brunt. With not even two minutes on the clock, the away end went into raptures. The Palace team looked shocked and the Albion continued to be the dominant team.
Ten minutes later, Albion could well have had a penalty when Anichebe was sent to the floor by Mile Jedinak who looked like he was wrestling with the big centre forward. This was waved away by referee Jon Moss. After this, it seemed like Palace had regrouped and they started pressing the Albion more and more, none more so than the impressive Bolasie, who was testing both the defence and Boaz Myhill in the goal.
Just after the half hour mark, Myhill pulled off a fantastic save from Bolasie, who attempted to score with an acrobatic overhead kick. Cries of 'Wales Number 1' rang out across the away end and the Palace fans looked on in disbelief. The first half eventually petered out after this, and at half time, everyone was quite content with a 1-0 win although most saw the importance of getting another goal to double our lead. Seems like our message was delivered to the players.
After the break
The second half started off in very similar vein to the first, in that we scored a goal very quickly –how nice to write that! And what a way to double the advantage. Craig Gardener, from 25 yards out picked out the goal and sent the ball well past Speroni and into the far corner. Similarly to when we scored in the first half, this goal seemed to give Palace the impetus to push forward and push for goals. Dwight Gayle, a half time substitution, was to have the next noticeable effort for the home side when his close range header clipped the top of the crossbar. Palace kept pressing for that ever elusive goal, but the Albion defence and Myhill stood firm.
Albion did manage to catch Palace on the break occasionally and Saido Berahino, around the 75th minute, made Speroni turn the ball behind after he had broken clear of Damien Delaney and Scott Dann.
With time quickly ebbing away, Palace really were pushing for that goal with Delaney heading the ball into Myhill's hands. Shortly after this, Yaya Sanogo poked the ball into the back of the net from two yards out, but this was correctly ruled offside much to the relief of the Albion faithful. With 6 minutes of added time to play, we all had our hearts in our mouths and after what seemed like an age, the referee blew for full time and wrapped up the game. Three points away from home and another ex-Pulis team conquered; much to the surprise of plenty in the away end. Our first away win at Selhurst Park in nine years and a far better game than the debacle that was served up last February was precisely what we needed.
With five games to go, we should, realistically, be safe for another year in the top flight. This season certainly hasn't been an easy one for the Albion faithful, but for the time being, we can at least be pleased we're back on winning ways again.
Until next time. Boing Boing.
Have your say on Albion's victory here at Baggies Banter.