So who was expecting that then? Not only a clean sheet but a goal from Crouch as well. The lanky bloke has tried virtually everyoneâ€™s patience in the last few months (except Harryâ€™s it seems) but here he was after four minutes, looking more like Alan Shearer than Alan Carr for a change as he rose above and out battled Samba to uncharacteristically power a downward header past Robbo. Our favourite keeper was too close to his near post and had left an inviting gap but Crouch showed strength, determination and technique in taking advantage of it.
Chasing this game via a series of dodgy streams round the internet wasnâ€™t ideal but the graininess and pixelation somehow reflected the gritty performances that were being put in on the pitch. The tempo rarely slowed during the whole game and despite the good shifts put in by Palacios, Lennon, Van der Vaart, Crouch and even Jenas it was Gallas who stood out with an outstanding â€˜thou shalt not passâ€™ type performance despite hobbling for much of the game.
Alongside him Bassong was lucky to be selected after his efforts at Craven Cottage but played well. Both full backs had their moments but won their respective battles eventually whilst Gomes, despite still flying the flag for eccentric keepers everywhere, was equal to everything that was fired at him. This included a couple of low drives in the second half from Diouf and Hoilett (I think) that wouldâ€™ve passed lesser men.
Up front we rarely forced Robbo into serious action the glaring exception being Defoeâ€™s weak left footed effort after Lennonâ€™s superb sprint had left him one on one with the keeper. Defences up and down the land seem to have learnt that if you get up his backside and donâ€™t let him turn then Defoe will cause you no damage. Unless he can find a way round this itâ€™s obvious that he needs to up his strike ratio if heâ€™s going to be effective for us. His spurning of the chance here to put us two up and grant some breathing space was totally representative of his performances over the last year and a bit and doesnâ€™t inspire confidence.
Harryâ€™s right to lower top four expectations, the money ahead of us is currently talking loudly. On nights like this though when the attrition to the squad means that weâ€™ve got two keepers on the bench alongside two fragile centre halves yet to play this season but we still force a fine win you do wonder whether heâ€™d be spouting the same stuff if weâ€™d seen off Wigan and West Ham earlier in the season.
Bolton at home on Saturday and on paper a chance to make more ground on those above us, assuming weâ€™ve got enough players fit to field a team of course.
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