When the ball hits the goal, it’s our great little Pole, that’s Majewski..

Crystal Palace – 0
Nottingham Forest – 3

Just as we’ve been bigging up Reidy, then Guedioura, then McCleary, it would seem that teams shouldn’t content themselves with nullifying these midfield threats – because Radoslaw Majewski would appear to be grasping his opportunity to be in from the cold with aplomb.  A second half hat-trick for the Pole providing the Reds with an invaluable three points on a tricky trip to Selhurst Park.

It was all mind-games around McCleary before the game from the manager – presumably with awareness that the winger was likely to feature, but certainly just as many of our hopes were pinned on him being available, perhaps his late confirmation in the line-up might just have focused our opponents attention on the danger-man too, and leave opportunities for others to grab the limelight, perhaps?

Gaz being back pushed Gunter back to defence and Wootton onto the bench, aside from this switch Steve Cotterill has been sticking to the line-up that’s been delivering the goods for him lately, with Elokobi coming onto the bench

Gunter    Chambers    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Guedioura    Reid

Majewski was the first to have a chance – but from long range he hit his first effort wide and belied the danger to follow.  The Reds had a pretty positive start all round – a Cunningham cross found Blackstock who brought a decent save from Speroni – so often seemingly our nemesis.  Palace seemed lacklustre and content to offer Forest both time and space to dominate possession – without creating masses of chances.

Forest created another opportunity when Reidy picked out Raddy who managed to evade a couple of defenders but dragged his effort off-target again.  Whilst the home side had created very little, they really should’ve taken the lead with their first chance of note after 37 minutes.  A ball over the defence by McCarthy picked out the run of Owen Garven but the midfielder conspired to put his shot wide of the target.

The best spell for the home side followed, Scannell did well to get down the right unmarked, but his cross towards Murray lacked composure and was too powerful for him to get anything on.  The Reds had the last attacking word after good work from McCleary down the right, he got the ball into the area where Blackstock couldn’t direct it goalwards, Reidy latched onto the resulting loose ball but put his effort wide.

So, half time and 0-0, which – in truth – wouldn’t be a bad result on paper.  Palace had offered very little evidence as to why we shouldn’t continue to probe though, although had given warnings of what they’re capable of on the break – so alertness at the back would be key too.  Plenty of grounds for optimism though, although I’ve noted before that grounds for optimism alone are sufficient for me to feel pessimistic!

The second half had started pretty sluggishly and then BOSH, we’d scored – it was McCleary who got the ball to Majewski who still had plenty to do, getting past a man and cutting into the area before smashing a poweful left-footed strike into the top near corner of the goal, a cracking finish that caught Speroni truly unawares – I would imagine the talented keeper won’t be happy to have been caught out.

Palace rallied and the Reds wobbled a bit at the back as is customary, a bit of juggling from Lee Camp was dealt with thanks to a timely clearance from Luke Chambers.  This lack of composure didn’t last too long – the lead was almost increased when Lynch rose to meet a curled Andy Reid freekick, but his header was straight at the Eagles ‘keeper.

There wasn’t long to wait for the second goal for the Reds, though – again McCleary combined with Majewski, this time Raddy finishing with his right foot with a powerfully curled shot inside Speroni’s far post, having touched it to the side to get the space for himself to get the shot away.  There were a few niggles after this, both Guedioura and McCarthy went in the book after a lot of moaning and a bit of shoving and handbags – not great to see really.

The home side tried to pile on a bit of pressure – a couple of times flashing crosses through the six yard box, but each time that crucial intervention wasn’t there to convert.  Forest worryingly started to look to defend their lead, but perhaps more sensibly keep McCleary as well as we can bearing in mind his hamstring trouble, taking the winger off and replacing him with Wootton – resurrecting the side that started the Leicester away game.

Worrying was certainly premature though, in this case – as the Reds attacked the now-more-advanced Gunter pulled the ball back to Raddy from the bye-line in the area, the midfielder still had a bit of clever footwork to get right before curling the ball inside the far post, again with his left foot, to secure his hat-trick and make the win pretty-much safe for the Reds and cap off a real fairytale of a return to favour for him.

The home side thought they’d get a goal back but Easter was flagged offside as he converted a cross from Zaha from a yard out.  Moments later Easter again was causing problems, grazing the post with another effort.  Forest wound the clock down by withdrawing Blackstock for Tudgay, and later Reidy came off to be replaced by Elokobi and were able to see out the game without much other incident.

A cracking win, congratulations of course to Raddy for his goals and performance, but also to the rest of the boys and Steve Cotterill and his coaching team too.  Looking at the league table we’re six points ahead of the trapdoor on 43 points – I can’t help but think that two more wins will do it, feasibly that means we could have all but secured our status come the end of the Easter break.  That might be fanciful, but the home game against Bristol City coming up is huge.

Here are the goals before they fall victim to the YouTube police.  Nice, aren’t they?