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Birmingham 3-1 Crystal Palace: Report
Blues maintain good form
Birmingham's late-season momentum continued as three first-half goals secured a vital 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace and consolidated their place in the npower Championship play-offs.
The hosts may have been playing for the 55th time this season, but fatigue did not seem to be taking hold as they stormed into the ascendancy within the first 32 minutes.
Chris Burke opened the scoring after 21 minutes and Keith Fahey extended their advantage 60 seconds later as the visiting Eagles found themselves chasing shadows in the first quarter of the game.
David Murphy then got his name on the scoresheet for the home side just after the half-hour mark, but Owen Garvan reduced arrears for Palace with a brilliant long-range strike on the stroke of half-time.
The visitors were able to settle after the break, but chances were few and far between in the second period as Birmingham registered their third successive victory.
Birmingham manager Chris Hughton made two changes to his starting XI following the 3-1 win at Burnley in midweek. Andros Townsend and Fahey returned to the Blues' line-up in place of Wade Elliot and Guirane N'Daw.
Palace boss Dougie Freedman, meanwhile, handed recalls to Stuart O'Keefe, Darren Ambrose and Jermaine Easter, as Sean Scannell and Glenn Murray dropped to the bench after the 3-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest last time out.
Birmingham looked threatening in the opening exchanges, and their early control paid dividends after 21 minutes when Burke fired them into the lead.
The midfielder twisted his marker neatly on the edge of the area, gaining himself a yard of space, and his curling left-footed effort was too good for Speroni.
Within a minute, the Blues doubled their advantage in near identical circumstances.
Burke laid the ball into the path of Fahey who smashed a superb shot into the top left-hand corner.
Birmingham seemed to be heading into half-time out of sight, as Murphy picked up Burke's pass to drive into the penalty area and send a fierce shot beyond Speroni.
But Palace finally found their feet, and Garvan drilled a sensational effort past Blues keeper Boaz Myhill just before the break to offer the visitors some scant hope.
The Eagles came out after the interval intent on pulling themselves back into the game and O'Keefe's powerful effort was parried by Myhill.
But Birmingham remained resolute and Mutch's long-range free-kick forced Speroni into a decent save as the Blues seemed comfortable protecting their two-goal lead.
Goalmouth action came at a premium in the dying stages of the match but Hughton and his players will be more than happy as they remained fourth in the table.
Birmingham 3-1 Crystal Palace: Match Report - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game as it happened.
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