Sunday, 31 January 2010

Fulham 0 - 2 Aston Villa

What a strange old match this was. Not without excitement, but somewhat lacking a storyline. Agbonlahor's two goals just before half-time neutering any drama.
Fulham are a sorry state without their full backs, who are so important to their forward drive. Hughes at right back was somewhat timid in crossing the halfway line and was desperately missed in the middle, where Hangeland and the increasingly expensive looking Smalling were carrying out some kind of Laurel & Hardy tribute act. Hangeland alone has been woefully out of sorts since returning from injury and was at fault for both goals. To me it looked like Agbonlahor's first goal was a foul on Smalling but his second was well taken. It was a shame that he spoilt it all with his lack of class by goading the Hammy End for no reason at all. Villa's goals actually came during Fulham's best spell of the first half as the Villains had spurned a couple of great opportunities earlier in the match.
Fulham had their chances throughout the game, but never looked deadly and rarely coherent. The second half was mainly Fulham 'attacking' but Friedel in the Villa goal only had to pull off a couple of good saves to keep a clean sheet.
Subs Riise and Elm combined well, but the latter's goal was unfortunately scrubbed off by a linesman's flag which earlier in the game appeared to be activated whenever Nevland got the ball. Bobby Z did well, but at times had to run onto his own flick-ons because of the lack of white shirts running beyond him.
The biggest cheer of the game came late on when a ball boy caught a badly directed looping ball. The little scamp (and I do mean little - Fulham's Ball Boys are tiny) lapped up the applause.
The strange match saw a Villa side not playing particularly well, yet comfortably winning. The ref Lee Mason had an odd day too, seemingly blowing up whenever a Villa player hit the deck but allowing the away team (Heskey in particular) to get away with some rough stuff.
In essence Villa physically and psychologically wanted the game more than an increasingly ragged looking Fulham side, but I would doubt they would come away with 3 points from many other opposition grounds playing like they did on Saturday. Roll on Wednesday and hopefully a chance to arrest this losing streak.

Attending: Me, Col and Rob.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Collection point

Looking ahead to six home games (and one away game) in three weeks, I checked on the teams still to visit the Cottage. This weekend against Villa aside (although the last two seasons have seen two home wins), Fulham have a chance of filling their boots at Craven Cottage during the rest of the season.
The last 8 games could see 7 home wins (assuming a defeat by Man City - although Birmingham will be far trickier given the way they are playing).

Birmingham City
Stoke City
Manchester City
West Ham United

21 points on top of the current points tally will give 48 points, which was enough for 11th place last year. This is assuming there will be no points reaped on their travels, but only games at Hull and Bolton suggest the possibility of any.
This would suggest that Fulham will finish around about the half way point, well away from the European spots, but given the way the FA Cup and Carling Cup is shaping up it is unlikely that 7th will reap a European slot this year. I think many Fulham fans would have taken that at the start of the season, especially with qualification for the second stage of the Europa League secured.
And with participation in the last 32 of the Europa League and last 16 of the FA Cup, what can Fulham expect in the knock-out competitions? The tie against Notts County or Wigan is eminently winnable, mainly because it's at Craven Cottage. Another favourable (home) draw in the quarters could see a trip to Wembley for the semi-finals. Christ, anything goes! And as for Shaktar... have Fulham anything to lose? They're already further than expected.
Of course the one thing is is scuppering progress at the moment is the injury list which stayed remarkably short last year. It's extremely fortuitous that Hodgson strengthened the squad for Europe as it has become essential for the league.
Hangeland and Johnson have been rusty since returning from injury, but the team looks light up front and in the full back positions now. A little bit of jiggery pokery in the loan market here could pay great dividends to the team, even if it's only to recall Stoor from Derby County. James Beattie could be useful as a handful upfront and a reserve to Bobby Z. That's if Elm is not up to the job.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Brighton & Hove Albion 0 - 0 Leyton Orient

Being stuck with the 'in-laws' over Christmas meant that I couldn't make it to the beano against Spurs on Boxing Day (in fact my last match was the away win over Basle) but I still made it to a goalless draw courtesy of Brighton.
The future seems bright for Brighton with a big new 22,000 seat stadium being built in Falmer after years of planning red tape and homelessness. However Falmer won't be ready until the start of the 2011 and until then the team are stuck at the Withdean 'stadium' which is essentially an athletics track with a few temporary stands around a pitch. In fact my girlfriend's school used to have athletics at this very facility. Certainly a unique venue for league football, it is doubtful many will mourn its passing in 18 months. Just check out how far the away fans are from the pitch.
The Seagulls are now managed by Gus Poyet but are struggling around the League 1 drop zone and Orient are in much the same position. This match was a relegation six pointer and no quarter was given by either side.
The stands being so temporary mean that three sides of the ground is uncovered and Boxing Day was wet. The ground do a startling business in selling ponchos. I realise the Cottage used to be like this. In fact I've still got an FFC bagged poncho from my first ever visit somewhere.
But it was wet, cold and not the greatest way for my girlfriend's brother's Aussie girlfriend (you still following this?) to be introduced to the sport. Especially as there were no goals. But there was a sending off by a Brighton player for two yellow cards, the second for stupidly tugging back and Orient midfielder as he ran through with the ball. Orient also hit the post with a cross, but I don't really remember any likelihood of an actual goal. Despite this it was an enjoyable, end to end match.
It also had one of the funniest tannoy announcements I've heard at football. Early on there was a call for the owner of a silver Mercedes license plate blah blah blah to make himself known. The driver clearly hadn't heeded this advice as about 10 minutes later there was a repeat of the call for owner of a silver Mercedes license plate blah blah blah which was parked in Shepherd's Croft, but was now parked in Tongdean Lane because its handbrake had failed.
The thing about the smaller crowd (there's about 7,000 capacity at the ground) is that chants are more spontaneous and more fun. Orient's Scott McGleish did himself no favours with the home crowd when he manhandled a Brighton defender during the set piece and he unfortunately injured himself right in front of the home fans soon after. He tried to laugh it off as he hobbled to the changing rooms on crutches after about five minutes treatment off the pitch, but some of the chants were so amusingly cutting it's a surprise that he didn't just let the ground swallow him up.
Fulham have a trip up to Accrington Stanley tomorrow in the FA Cup and would be well advised to take their waterproofs. I actually went to the Eagle ground nearly 20 years ago to watch them play Mossley (with whom my uncle played) so it's nice, if slightly bizarre, to see Fulham become the first Premier League side to play there.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

State of the nation

In order to fill some of the gap left by no matches (although I might write up my trip to the Withdean on Boxing Day later) I thought I'd air this delightful rant apparently by a QPR fan which hit my inbox today, but has probably been going around a far wider audience. I liked it because quite frankly I can identify with too much of it. EDIT- Apparently it has been doing the rounds for some time.
I take more pleasure in seeing Chelsea lose than I do in seeing QPR win at the moment.

I sat through so many matches when we were absolute dog**** under the likes of Ray Harford and with people like Paul Bruce, Matthew Brazier and Mark Perry in the squad and I never felt like this.

The club isn't ours anymore but moreso than that - football is just properly gash these days.

I mean really gash.

Football generally.

I hate nearly everything about it these days....

I hate the Prem and the myth that it is exciting this year. Man City breaking into the top four isn't exciting. They spent loads of money. It's no more exciting that Nameless **** getting to number 1 in the charts after winning the X-Factor.

I hate the myth of Arsene's kids. Buying some French kid when he's 17, playing him in the League Cup and then selling him when he's 20 after about 3 appearances in the league is NOTHING SPECIAL.

I hate hearing about Liverpool/Man Utd's debt but nothing ever happening about it. A club needs to go to the wall for the money thing to change but it doesn't happen. Why the **** are Charlton, Leeds and Southampton still in business?

I hate Frank Lampard's stupid ****ing face. I hate that Joe Cole's tongue is never in his mouth, the downsy spacker. I hate John Terry being England captain when he's CLEARLY AN OAF.

I hate young exciting wingers who have nothing but pace. Tony Scully had nothing but pace.

I hate Harry ****ing Redknapp. And Jamie Redknapp. And Louise Redknapp.. And the Wii.

I hate Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

I hate Garth Crooks.

I hate Garth Brooks a lot for that matter.

I hate Sky Sports.

I hate that when a lower league player beats 10 players and chips the keeper it doesn't matter but if Rooney scores from more than 20 yards it's amazing.

I hate that female sports journos are now mandatory.

I hate Mark Lawrenson for not coming out. 'I do like a big man at the back'. I bet you do.

I hate any advert that portrays football to be about anything other than pain and disappointment.

I hate Lee Hughes and the fact that he makes a living from the game. I hate Marlon King and any team that signs him when he gets out. I hate that it'll probably be us.

I hate Phil Brown.

I hate 'well the ball is a lot lighter now and will cause goalkeepers real problems this summer' before EVERY ****ING TOURNAMENT!

I hate that Kieron Dyer earned more in the time I took to write this post than I'll earn this month.

I hate Adrian Durham, Ian Wright and Alan Brazil.

I hate Gazza. Either die or shut up. Stop ****ing lingering.

I hate hearing about Hillsborough more than I hear about Heysel or Bradford.

I hate Leeds.

I hate Roy Keane.

I hate grown men wearing football shirts of their team whilst shopping on a saturday when their team is playing at home.

I hate that I don't hate Roy Hodgson.

I hate Jermaine Beckford and any player who has neck tattoos.

I hate songs being inappropriately taken as club anthems and then sung in a manly way. 'I'm forever blowing bubbles....'. Gaylords.

I hate Danny Dyer and anyone he's ever interviewed.

I hate the book 'Cass' by Cass Pennant. It is honestly the stupidest thing I've ever read. Chapter 1: Millwall. 'Yeah we took 50 to Millwall. They had 1000 in their mob but we ran 'em up and down the street'. Chapter 2: Liverpool. 'Yeah we took 50 to Liverpool. They had 2000 in their mob but we ran 'em up and down the street'. **** me... Jade Goody's autobiography is probably better. Even her non-ghost written one.

I hate that all good youngsters end their careers at Spurs before they start."

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