Sunday, 7 February 2010
Fulham 1 - 0 Portsmouth
This game saw two very welcome debuts - one from a tireless forward who seemed to dribble through defenders rather than around them, the other from a calming influence on the back line - an actual left back. Nicky Shorey's first appearance in a Fulham shirt was remarkably accomplished, both in defence and going forward, and allowed Hughes to return to the centre where he can direct Hangeland. They did look a much more coherent unit in this match than the Villa game, except at right back where Stephen Kelly looks woefully short on confidence, especially when pushing foward. He seems a shadow of the player from two months ago in Basle.
Jonathan Greening, back on the left wing, didn't really offer much attacking impetus, in fact after half an hour he was letting Shorey get on with tearing up field, before becoming an unlikely match winner by placing a deflected Duff cross in the back of the net. Zamora may have been offside (and definitely affecting play) but for once Fulham got the rub of the green and Avram Grant got another grievance to put in his vastly overflowing grievance bag. A lot of people seem to have some sympathy for Pompey and their current plight, but I can't decide where I stand on the situation. The fans seemed happy enough when they were spending beyond their means to win the FA Cup, but there for the grace of Mo go Fulham fans. They know the team is spending beyond their means because it is backed by Al Fayed, but should he sell up - what would happen then?
Goalless at half time, we all reflected on how lucky Fulham were to escape when over the tannoy Diddy David Hamilton read out someone's proposal of marriage. Thankfully the Cottage didn't let anyone down by belting out a quick, traditional burst of 'You don;t know what you're doing' and everything was good with the world.
After an hour of the game (and after Kelly had been subbed) the wind began to change in Fulham's favour and they actually looked like they wanted to win it and could. Before this point, the players were out-muscled and out-fought by a desperate Pompey team. Fulham really do need a clogger and maybe Etuhu can stamp his authority on games again now he is back from the African Nations Cup.
A quick mention of the referee - Anthony Taylor made his Premier League debut in this game and my, what a performance. It was like some promo from Ashes to Ashes as some of the tackles he let go were distinctly of a 1980s flavour. It's likely that's just how games go where he's from - Wythenshaw in Manchester. I used to work in a bookies in Wythenshaw and that was rough as hell, so it's likely he's used to seeing much, much worse. I hope he clamps down a little in the next game he officiates though for the sake of his own career and the careers of some of the footballers on the receiving end of some of the 'legitimate' tackles he's prepared to let go.
Attendance: Me, Jarrod +1