Monday, 12 April 2010
Fulham 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
Wigan fans have never been the greatest travellers, like Fulham their rapid ascendancy through the divisions somewhat curtailed organic growth of the supporter base, and also like Fulham they play second fiddle in the area to a bigger team - Wigan Warriors rugby league.
Unusually, Fulham attacked the Hammy End in the first - something which has not been done for a long time. Presumably Wigan won the toss and decided to switch, a decision that led many boos to cascade down from the stands. I don't ever remember a coin toss being booed before. However it did mean that all the subsequent action was way down at the Putney End and difficult to see clearly from our seats.
Fulham started off with Elm replacing Zamora upfront (wisely rested with a trip to Germany on the horizon) and I thought the big swede was busy enough in the first half and unlucky to be taken off at half time - I didn't realise that he went to hospital soon afterwards. Hopefully he'll be 100% again soon.
This was one of those rare games where Schwarzer wasn't totally on the ball, and it showed with Wigan's goal. As soon as I read that Jason Scotland hadn't scored a league goal all season, I had the feeling that would end at Craven Cottage. Fulham have been ever so generous in stopping other teams' and players' negative trends this season and this event typified events. Scotland caught a volley on the edge of the area, falling over as he did so, and Schwarzer contrived to let it squeeze in at the near post. Only moments earlier he had come out for a looping ball which ended up hitting his thigh. The ball fell for Scharner who lofted it goalwards over the keeper. Fortunately Hangeland had retreated to the goal line to head clear. Before the game I had pointed out Scharner as one of Wigan's better players, but the Austrian had a 'mare at the Cottage and was at fault for the equaliser just after half time. He was robbed of the ball by the again impressive Zoltan Gera on the byline, who crossed for substitute Okaka to kind of flick it up with the back of his foot over goalkeeper and defender at the near post. It was an instant impact from the on loan Italian, who did very little for the rest of the match.
10 minutes later, Hangeland powered through a wall of defenders to head home a Duff corner, although it bounced off the far post and into the net in slow motion. It didn't feel like a goal, but it counted.
And that was about it. This was as dull a game as you could possible expect to see, considering there were three goals. Neither keeper had much to do other than the goals. The most excited part of the match was the constant booing of the referee Mark Clattenberg who refused to give Gera a penalty and was thus booed off at half time. Still the win was very welcome given that March saw Fulham win just one of seven games (albeit that was the 4-1 v Juventus) and the three points put to bed any outside worries about the team getting involved in the relegation scrap. It's all about Europe now.