Sunday, 2 January 2011
Cutting Edge - TOT 1 - 0 FUL
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.