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.

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