Surely Peter Crouch has never scored a better goal than his second at Brisbane Rd on Friday night? Thirty yards out with his back to goal and a defender up his arse he flicked a pass up from the back between his legs and spun to leave his marker for dead. He took a few paces forward and decided a pot shot at goal was his best option. Experienced Crouch watchers will know the sinking feeling that this engenders so surprise as well as admiration were the overwhelming emotions when his spindly right leg connected strong and true and the ball ended up nestling in the bottom right hand corner of the net.
This moment, together with the rampaging runs of Kyle Walker, were the highlights of the 4-1 win. The strong ‘XI’ that we put out started and finished the game and with Palacios and Kranjcar at least looking like they’d not quite rid themselves yet of the after effects of an enjoyable summer, the reason for this may have been as much for fitness purposes as anything. Harry Kane and Tom Carroll’s names had been cheered by the locals when listed amongst the subs and it would’ve been good to see them on the field at some point but given the repeat of this tactic of no subs at Brighton, it appears to have been a deliberate ploy.
It was a comfortable win, we were always in control with the home team limited to trying to make the best of a couple of opportunities created on the break. Cudicini stood little chance with the goal but was untroubled otherwise. Bassong was joined at centre half by Alan Hutton and if anything was learnt from the evening it was that the latter shouldn’t be allowed in the middle of the back four again if he’s going to misjudge headers and lose his man like he did here. At left back Rose was effective especially going forward where he was always available to combine with Kranjcar. It was his cross that led to our third goal, stabbed home by an Orient defender when under pressure from Crouch. On the right Walker was confident, strong, quick and full of running. His crossing was hit and miss but he looks more than capable of adding the sort of zip down the right that is generally missing when Corluka plays there.
If Kranjcar is carrying any timber then he didn’t let it affect his game. His passing was generally imaginative, sure and slick and he was always ready to take a dig at goal. He hit the bar with a first time shot when it was nil nil and ended up completing the scoring with a thunderbolt volley after a cross had been half cleared. Inside him Pienaar was also neat and busy and combined well with Niko, Bentley and Keane. Palacios though remains the enigma he’s become in the last 12 months. He was sometimes careless in possession and often slow in distribution. He committed a shocking tackle halfway through the second half that left a man in red poleaxed and writhing and no doubt wondering what challenges are like in a competitive game if this was a friendly. David Bentley completed the middle four. Nominally on the right he appeared all over the shop, which cleared a space for Walker’s runs if nothing else. As usual his performance left one thinking that there is a decent footballer in there trying to get out. His distribution was quick, expansive and generally accurate. His ball striking was clean, the highlights being the corner that Crouch stooped to head home for our first goal and the cross field ball that nearly led to the big man’s hat-trick at the death, his header being cleared off the line. For all his technique though his lack of pace meant that he failed to beat a man all night and the tempo of the game allowed him the extra time he needs to make the correct choices for his passing.
Up front Crouch was as ever willing and in this match, effective. Robbie Keane on the other hand fostered laughter amongst the home fans and frustration in the away contingent. He’s slow, takes too many touches, drops way too deep and cannot finish. I don’t really understand the point of giving him ninety minutes with Kane and Luongo on the bench.
Overall it was a satisfactory display without being spectacular – Crouch’s goal apart. It looked like Harry wasn’t on the bench; Bond, Jordan and Clive Allen were though. Hopefully they reported back on the fine attacking play of Walker, Kranjcar and Rose, but also on the need for someone to be on the end of their deliveries into the danger zones.
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