Sunday, 30 January 2011

Total FA Cup for Spurs

As it stands it is half time and Fulham are 4-0 up against 10-man Spurs. Incredible. Why am I not there? Well after going to both league games against Tottenham and being thoroughly irked by the manner of their two wins (as well as last season's 0-0 draw), I decided I did not intend attending.
It seems all the luck that evaded them for the two previous league meetings has been returned with interest. Aided by Harry Redknapp pulling a Fergie and messing around with both personnel and formation, Spurs started sluggishly and Fulham pressurised them into mistakes. And how.
Two penalties later, which from watching in real time I didn't think were pens, and kudos has to go to the ref for spotting them. However the Dawson red card was a bit harsh. Did he prevent a goalscoring opportunity? He certainly impeded it using foul play. What the hell is the rule these days?
Anyway, Fulham kept their momentum with a quick third from a corner and then Dembele scored out of nothing to put the tie to bed before the half time whistle. It's strange to analyse a game like this. Basically Spurs cocked up so badly at the start, Fulham have capitalised and are now out of sight. Hopefully.

Wish I'd have gone now.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Last on MOTD - FUL 2 - 0 STO

Took a friend to his first ever Premier League match this weekend and with two goals, one penalty, a red card and the ball crashing against a post and a crossbar and plenty of humourous chants - it seemed a pretty good introduction. As it was for new signing Steven Sidwell - who was given 25 minutes against a dispirited 10-man team already two down.
Stoke were a very disappointing side. Other than Jones making a bit of a nuisance of himself in the first 15 minutes (and a set piece header from Shawcross that skipped merrily wide) Stoke had nothing. They were creatively bankrupt and even having Tuncay up front failed to rectify the matter. In fact when the Turk came off for the newly loaned Carew (so newly loaned that he didn't make the programme) it was more of a act of kindness. The two forwards will likely start in each other's places for the next game, not that Carew did anything outstanding.
Once Aaron Hughes had regained his composure against Stoke's big men, they rarely threatened unless set up by wayward defensive headers, and it was Fulham's small men that did most of the damage - Duff and Johnson were very impressive with their movement, ably assisted by the showing of Dempsey and Dembele drifting around the pitch. Murphy once again pulled the strings, but Duff was the standout player, giving a torrid time to Stoke's makeshift left back.

The second half was made far easier by an early goal (and a red card). Dempsey, despite my continual criticisms of his first touch, wondrously pulled a pass out of the air to slip between the Stoke centre halves to go through on goal when Shawcross showed his appreciation of Rugby by completely hauling him down inside the penalty area. Pulis ridiculously suggested that Dempsey was already on the way down (not that he hasn't got previous) but it was as simple a decision as it was possible to make - even Stuart Atwell got it right.
Stoke's defenders were the most 'grabby' I've seen of a team in many, many months, but at least those sort of fouls aren't dangerous.
Once Demps had converted, that was about it. Stoke become a slight parody of themselves by throwing on a few more giants and taking off the small quick wingers and just launched the ball in the air. Expect Treebeard to sign for the Potters any day now. However they do need something extra if this is an example of a typical game for them. At 33/1 I see enough value in a small tinkle on them to get relegated so poorly did they play. Or maybe it was Fulham playing so well that made them appear so ordinary? With a handful of tricky matches ahead of them, Fulham will definitely be hoping that's the case.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Meet the 'fans' - Ish

At the start of the season I set Ish a challenge of actually attending 10 games this season from his season ticket. So far he's managed (I think) five out of 12 (including this weekend's Stoke City match). However he reckons he'll make the final seven league matches at the Cottage (including the Valentines Day Massacre against Chelsea) so we'll see. Hopefully there will be some extra FA Cup games after the Spurs match.

Name: Ishan
Season tickets held: 2007/8, 2008/9, 2009/10, 2010/11
Hometown: St Albans
Football team supported: None
Why did you get a Fulham Season Ticket: Wanted to see Premiership football, meet up with friends, Andy suggested doing it.
Favourite Game: Fulham v Juventus
Favourite Goal: Konchesky v West Ham Screamer (I saw it on TV with Jarrod). Just been looking at the top 10 Fulham goals on YouTube as a memory jogger. They're all really good, but I can't remember any of them.
Favourite Player: Pantsil (Genuine in his relationship and appreciation of the fans). Should be respected more for captaining a side to the world cup quarter finals in 2010.
Least favourite player: Dickson Etuhu. I have finally seen the light and now realise that Dickson effectively plays himself out of the game , EVERY GAME, and makes Fulham a 10 man team. Passing the ball to the team mate right next to him all the time doesn't cut it for me anymore)
What do Fulham now mean to you (if anything?): Class A swearing in my right ear, really bad jokes in my left.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Meet the fans - Adam

With a trip to Wigan for a very, very important game (which will end up 0-0) ahead of us, I thought I'd continue introducing the people who have been season ticket holders with us these past four years.

Name: Adam
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Season tickets held: 2006/2007, 2007/8
Football team supported: Fulham FC
Why did you get a Fulham Season Ticket: Living locally to Fulham since 2000 and loving football generally (not an easy task for an Aussie), went to see them play a few times and caught the bug.
Favourite Game: Vs Tottenham back in 2007 (i think) when Kamara did the overhead bicycle kick to draw the match and the Hammy End broke into a spontaneous round of "3-1 and you fucked it up, 3-1"
Favourite Goal: Danny Murphy against Portsmouth to keep us in the league. I'd moved to Asia by the time but remember watching the match in Singapore thinking that this is possibly the last time I’d see my beloved Fulham on TV (they show every Fulham match live here by the way) for a long time! Thankfully things turned out well!
Favourite Player: Moritz Volz!
Least favourite player: Shefki Kuki
What do Fulham now mean to you (if anything?): Nothing... EVERYTHING (Nod to "Kingdom of Heaven")....

Monday, 10 January 2011

You're shit, ahhhhhhhhh - FUL 6 - 2 PBR

There was a lot of fun in the stands this weekend. Mainly because of the comfortable scoreline relaxing everyone, partly because a lot of people (ourselves included) had switched seats for this FA Cup game and partly because of some very strange goings on pitchside.
It could have been all so different though had David Stockdale not shown his ninja prowess early on, tipping a couple of shots over the bar from close range; Johnny Painstil's erratic decision making coming to the fore again. However the goals came before the end of the first half, allowing the Fulham fans to just enjoy themselves. One thing that should be mentioned about Stockdale is his astounding distribution. He can pick out a pass like Beckham. This boy is going to go far.
Peterborough were tidy enough, but it was clear how they have conceded so often this season, with Kamara and Duff running riot behind their back line. How the Irishman didn't score over the course of the match is worthy of a Parliamentary inquiry. Of Kamara's three, only the second goal really required his skill with a lovely arcing run behind the defenders being met by Murphy's sumptuous through ball and sealed with an overly-casual finish.
One of the strangest things about this game, apart from the avalanche of goals, was the 30 minute cameo from the new left winger, who Hughes has cleverly decided to disguise as Jonathan Greening sans-beard. He was all over the place, set up two goals and scored himself after dogged work on the left. He was so impressive that he almost snaffled my man of the match nomination, but I guess that's because we weren't expecting much. The last time I remember him playing left wing for Fulham, he scored the winner against Portsmouth. Maybe he should be kept out there.
In the stands, the fans were having as much fun as Greening. The poor Posh 'keeper got the whole 'you're shit, ahhhhhh' every time he even looked at the ball and one ahhhhhhhhhh went on for a good minute after he'd punted the ball down the field.
There was also a bit of fun had at the back of the Hammy End with one of the stewards, who was a dead ringer for Johnny P and serenaded with: 'Are you Painstil in disguise' and 'there's only two Johnny Paintsils'. Fulham's erstwhile manager Woy Hodgson also got a song on the occasion of his sacking from Liverpool. I though the Fulham fans might have been sympathetic but there was no chance of that. To the tune of Baby Give It Up it went:
Na na na na na na na na
Hodgson's got no job
Got no job
Hodgson's got no job.

Harsh but funny. Posh's 6,000+ fans did the team proud as well, although they only really got into their swing when 4-0 down; at which point you must say 'bugger it, let's try and enjoy ourselves'. And they were rewarded by two goals, the first of which was probably the best of the match. Despite the leaky defence, Hughes has now got to continue this momentum away at Wigan and Liverpool, not to mention the next two home matches against Stoke City and Spurs.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Deja Vu again - FUL 3 - 0 WBA

I do like night games And the round of Premier League matches this midweek were so interesting that I think it should be done more often. Fulham fans were spoilt on Thursday nights last season, especially considering the results the team achieved, so let's have some more.
Most people are getting giddy about this game and how it's a corner turned, but it was just a bit more of the same for me, the only difference being that WBA couldn't defend for toffee. It kind of felt like the false dawn experienced after the comfortable dismantling of Wigan in October which was followed up with 8 games without a win. Still Fulham were due their slice of luck the way things have been going this season - hopefully it won't have all come in the same match.
The first half was almost ruined for me by the incessant prattling of someone behind me comparing everything to the computer games Fifa 11 and Football Manager. It really was tiresome.  Fortunately it seemed to be for his mates as well, as he barely mentioned either game in the second half after they took the mickey out of him. I don't know where they were supposed to be sitting, but they were marauding around the stand like scavengers looking for free seats that they could sit near some people they know. Hey, at least they turn up, unlike Ish these days. I do wonder why he renewed his season ticket again. I think he's missed the last six.
The goals Fulham scored from corners were ridiculously easy, so much so it begs the question why Simon Davies is so keen to take short ones all the time. But in this game they were helped by the diminutive size of the makeshift West Brom back line and Scott Carson seemingly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after his attempt at a save in the first half from Davies' hopeful shot just speared the ball into the top corner, much to the astonishment of the Hammy End.
Johnny P had one of his more random games, while the rest of the squad continued some decent form without looking too dangerous. The subs Eddie Johnson and Riise were woeful in the short time they had though. The former didn't even get a touch and the later looked concussed. It was a shame - he was occasionally effective last season.
As to where Steve Sidwell fits into this team I don't know. It's the strikeforce that needs strengthening as a priority, not the midfield.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Cutting Edge - TOT 1 - 0 FUL

It was another decent performance from Fulham against a Spurs side that spent most of the match in third gear, but a lack of cutting edge does not mean you are unlucky - it means you can't score. Spurs have incisiveness all over the pitch and it showed. When the team finally decided to wake up, which was about 30 minutes in, Spurs pressured until they got their goal (in essence an opportunistic deflection from a harsh free-kick) but the writing was on the wall.
Spurs' two wingers, Bale and Lennon, were very dangerous when they were given the right service, but fortunately for Fulham that didn't happen too often. Unfortunately it happened enough, with Bale's instinctive flicked header putting the ball in the opposite side of the goal to a leaden footed Schwarzer.
It was harsh on the team wearing the Middlesbrough kit, who had been quite comfortable and at times quasi-dangerous in the first half. But for all Fulham's possession and tidy passing, there was no real goal threat.
Part of the problem was that Fulham, appeared to be second to every loose ball - considering the attacking unit currently appears to be set up to capitalise on random headers and flicks from long punts forward this was a bit of a surprise. Maybe it was the youthful nature of the Spurs' players compared to the ageing Fulham team that allowed them to react more quickly to loose balls, or maybe it was a heightened level of anticipation that the better players have, but t seemed that whenever the Fulham players made a loose touch they lost the ball, but when Spurs slightly miscontrolled they were able to retain possession.
This all sounds a bit down - Fulham did play well. We actually saw what Hughes was talking about when he said Etuhu could make a difference up front - this was Dickson's most positive game for a long time and if he had belief in his left foot he might have scored (or at least have a shot) from the best passing move of the first half. Given the quality of their immediate opposition, both Paintsil and Baird did okay at full back. I even heard a muted rendition of 'We've got Bairdinho' from the away fans). Murphy pulled strings in the middle; Duff and Johnson made some good runs. However there were very few shots on goal.
I saw a report somewhere that suggested that Fulham were playing on the counter attack, which was total cobblers in my opinion. Fulham just aren't quick enough to play on the counter attack, both in body and mind. The loss of Johnson's searing pace doesn't help, but the forwards never seem to be in a big rush to press forward, giving time for enough defenders to get back. And once they had more weight in numbers, the Spurs centre halves dealt with almost everything thrown at them, even if there were some desperate blocks to equally desperate long range shots towards the end.
This was my first trip to White Hart Lane and I quite liked the stadium - it has some character. However the home crowd were really, really quiet. The Fulham fans weren't much better, in fairness, but they were better. I was a bit disappointed if I'm honest - I've been very impressed with Spurs' away support both at the Cottage and at Wembley, but this seemed to be a different demographic completely. Maybe it was because it was New Year's Day, maybe it was because 'the Lane' has had more prestigious visitors this season in the Champions League than little old Fulham, but the crowd was as flat as the game.
While Fulham might be in the relegation zone at the moment things are tight enough down there not to be overly worried, but it's a big game at home on Tuesday night. Both the team and the manager need a win that will take them out of the drop zone, but to do that Fulham need some goals. It's been a month since a Fulham striker has scored and this is something that Hughes desperately needs to address if he is to maintain his reputation as a good manager.

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