In comparison, the Fulham back line disappointed, and a couple of ineffective clearances gave Klasnic the opportunity to volley home efficiently from the penalty spot. He then showed his lack of class by taunting the Hammersmith End despite no previous provocation, echoing Agbonlahor's pathetic actions last season. The Croat probably escaped derision throughout the remainder of the match from the Fulham fans, as they soon discovered a greater enemy. Stuart Atwell.
Atwell's decision making has always been a bit wobbly, but one thing he is applauded for doing is letting the game flow through playing advantage. However in this game he seemed to forget that he still needed to admonish the fouler. In one attack from Fulham, Dembele clearly had his shirt pulled (well we could see it in the Hammy End at he was attacking Putney) and we know the ref saw it as he made the 'play on' signal, which was fair enough as he retained the ball. Nothing was said to the pullee once the move (quickly) broke down though.
Soon after I think it was Danny Murphy had his shirt blatantly pulled back. Once again Fulham retained possession and Atwell played on, but we all knew that the yellow card would be coming out once play stopped. But it didn't. The ref didn't even bother to talk to the Bolton player. Again. Then Dembele was running with the ball along the edge of the Bolton box - yet another massive shirt pull made him lose possession. No foul. NO FOUL? We were down the other end of the pitch and this was so obvious even Arsene Wenger would have held his hands up and said fair cop. But Atwell's weak, weak refereeing let Bolton get away with it. It happened twice more in the second half, each time equally as blatant, but the Bolton players knew they could get away with it. Only at the very end - the 94th minute - when Fulham were breaking for the final time only to be cynically pulled by Holden did the ref see fit to blow for a foul and issue a yellow card, but by then it was too little too late. He had become a foul play enabler and the crowd made sure he knew it.
Tommo, an Arsenal fan who watches a lot of live football, described it as the worst referring performance he had ever seen. I thought it was the worst since last season's Europa League game against Juventus, but at least that was in Fulham's favour, so quickly glossed over. It was not just the shirt pulling, but the inconsistency. Sidwell gets pulled up very early in the game for what was a clean sliding tackle, yet almost identical challenges from Bolton players went unpunished. At least in the second half the decisions he got wrong were about 50:50 for both sides. He was that poor I even think he fell for every one of Dempsey's ridiculous collapsing dives which have become more prevalent in his play under Hughes, despite Fulham's free kick 'prowess'.
I must admit, after what I had seen of Bolton's transformed game under Coyle, I was somewhat taken aback by the regressed version that showed up at the Cottage this weekend; full of snide fouls and sub-Stoke tactics. But I guess you need an 'away' game and it was very effective here after they took the lead. Impressively dogged defending, bite your ankles midfield work and effective counter attacking. It goes to show that in the second half when Fulham were ostensibly searching out an equaliser that Schwarzer was by far the busier goalkeeper.
As well as Bolton stuck to their gameplan, Fulham seemed a bit more ragged than usual. I think they may have underestimated Bolton if I'm honest. The fans certainly did. No matter how many own goals Johnny P scores, he must be less of a liability than Carlos 'ball watcher' Salcido, whose one positive (attacking play) seems to have completely deserted him. Sidwell also had a mixed game, probably confused over what he was allowed to do after that early foul. AJ was far less effervescent than recently and the way Bolton got about Murphy clearly effected his game and possibly his mentality, given the way he uncharacteristically went for glory with a very weak shot right at the end of the game when team mates were far better placed.
The only major positive was the return of Bobby Zamora, who with his first three touches conceded a foul, misplaced a pass which led to a very dangerous Bolton break and was caught offside. At least he was getting involved, I suppose. He soon settled in and became a nuisance to the Bolton backline though. I wonder how Hughsie is going to deploy him in the future.
It all sounds very negative, but strangely it only need a slight bit of luck and Fulham would still be in the FA Cup. Whenever the ball was deflected or blocked in the Bolton area it seemed to fall nicely for one of the defenders rather than the attacking side, and the Bolton midfielders always seemed to be first to the second ball. But you make your own luck to some extent and the Trotters were the worthy victors. Fortunately the prospect of an away tie at Birmingham tempered the disappointment of Fulham fans somewhat. But only a little.