Monday, February 26, 2007

Game 28 - FFC 1 Man United 2

So it turns out I am indeed feeling a little better after the weekends result. The "not-flu" has not quite gone, but is definately going, and the Whites put in a respectable, if eventually unsuccessful, performance. It's something to build on, and a sign that maybe there is still one last twist in the tale of this season.

Strange that reverting to the loathed 4-5-1 formation * seemed to have worked much better than previously. With Montella banned for 2 more games, and our sudden influx of midfielders, maybe this is how we'll see the season out. Both Davies and Radzinski were very busy throughout, and the Diop/Smertin/Brown triad seem capable of imposing themselves on any team. The down side is the effort required by the lone striker, and the lack of opportunity for someone playing in that role to score. Big Brian is certainly no shirker, but he needs a lot of support for this system to work. It's not hard to work out that Brian will win a lot of ball in the air, but we need to ensure we have players who can get to the second ball to create chances or score. If we are going to turn this season around we need a similar performance against Villa on Saturday, we won't have many better opportunities to win 3 points so we need to grasp it while we can.

* Subsequently realised we actually played a slightly narrow 4-4-2 in this game with Radz back as a striker. I think Diop may have covered the left flank, which all seems a bit strange, but Ferguson noted this as being one of the reasons we did so well against them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not-Flu and minor depression

Game 27 - Bolton 2 Fulham 1 & FA Cup Round 5 - FFC 0 Spurs 4
Two really quite miserable games seperated by a bout of "not-flu" which I am still recovering from. It's amazing how quickly football can kick you in the gut just when you think things are going really well. I didn't really expect us to get much out of an away trip to Bolton, but combined with a complete capitualtion in the Cup, and I'm finding myself as miserable as almost any other time this season - a real low ebb. I really have nothing to say about either of these matches, and with the prospect of not actually going to a live match until April, I'm not sure I'll have much to say for quite a while. Maybe there is an element of hopes being raised after a successful transfer window, only to be dashed again by too many under-par performances, but I had really thought we had improved our squad and could actually push on to the upper reaches of the league ans was looking forward to a nice little cup run and (I know I was getting ahead of myself here) maybe ... even ... a Cup Final appearance. This all seems to have been dashed in a little over a week, and the reality sinks in that our remaining 11 Premiership matches only offer the opportunity to avoid relegation.

Maybe a stunning performance against Man Utd can turn this all around, and maybe it's just that I'm not in the most positive of moods after 2 weeks of the "not-flu".

Monday, February 05, 2007

Round up part 4 - FA Cup and Game 22 to 25

FA Cup Round 3 – Leicester City 2 FFC 2
This time last year we faced Leyton Orient with a huge injury list and I had a foreboding that we would lose. I though about putting money on Orient (at 9/1) to try and pre-empt this disaster but in the end didn’t make it to the bookies. I felt sick when I saw the final score line of Fulham 1 Orient 2. So here we are in January again, with another huge (possibly worse) injury list facing a team very capable of knocking us out. I headed straight to Ladbrokes to put a fiver on a Leicester win at stingy odds of 2/1 and thereby ensured Fulham lived to fight another day.

Game 22 - West Ham United 3 FFC 3
Boa’s been sold to the Hammer’s and I’m not sorry that he’s gone. The last straw for me was his lack of effort when forced to play left back against Reading. Boa’s still a great player but I felt over the last season and a half he seemed to have lost his drive, and often looked like he didn’t want to play for us anymore. I hold no grudge though and am happy to look at the good times he gave us, and there were many. I am however, amazed that the club finalised the deal prior to our match and thereby let him play against us! In the end it probably didn’t matter but it looked like a cock up waiting to happen. This game was another in the continuing series of "end-to-end games with Fulham snatching last minute equaliser’s". I’m not sure it’s good for my health but so far I like it. Today’s hero was an unlikely Philippe Christanval on 90 + 3. Love it!

FA Cup Round 3 Replay - FFC 4 Leicester City 3
OK so a temporary halt to my self-imposed ban. Hey tickets are only £17 and we’ve already lasted longer than the last two years. A midweek game gave me the opportunity to hit the pub prior to kick-off, and in particular give the Bricklayers Arms a try. A great little pub, though one that, in future I will probably have to allow more than 10 minutes to get to the ground from. A brisk walk though Bishop’s Park (greatest walk to a ground in the country surely?) and as we approached the Hammy End the unmistakable muted cheer of the opposition scoring. Arse! 0-1 and we’re not even in the ground yet. Thankfully the beer helped temper my nerves and we sat back to enjoy a classic cup tie. Big Brian struck to pull us level just past the half hour mark, before another spot of calamitous defending allowed Leicester to sneak a header in at the far post and take a 2-1 lead at half time. Montella made his home debut as the teams restarted, and the anticipation was palpable. Couldn’t wait to see how good he really was, but not before we are stunned again as Leicester fire in a hopeful shot from midfield that flies into the top corner to give them a 3-1 lead. The beer’s still working though and I’m not worried. 51 minutes and Michael Brown fires a low cross in front of the goal that Montella clinically dispatches, 60 minutes and a deflected corner again finds Montella at the far post to rise and head home for 3-3. Game on! MONTELLAWHOOOH-OH-OH-OH! We love him already, a genuine fox in the box, with real quality. Leicester do get back into the game though and there are a few nervy moments. With time running down, I’m holding on for Extra-time and the chance to go for a quick wee, when Wayne Routledge (who has also had a great game) jinks his way into the Leicester half. Seemingly completely trapped by three defenders, he seems to have blown it before drawing a foul as one of them needlessly pulls him back. However as the lino furiously flags the ref (Alan Wiley who also did very well tonight) plays advantage, Routledge somehow slips between all three players, picks up the ball the other side, maintains his composure and slots away the winning goal. OH YES!!! (Oh my bladder!) A great night and a great result.

Game 23 - FFC 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Another patched together team with Routledge unable to play against his main employers. Boca has to move into midfield with Pearce returning to the defence. A Montella penalty on 84 minutes looks like giving us three well needed points, before a dubious equaliser sees us draw our sixth Premiership game in a row, and potentially leaves Chris Coleman with an FA charge to face. Still we are now unbeaten for nine games, and that can only be a good thing. We do need to pick up points in the league, but I think its better that we make ourselves hard to beat.

FA Cup Round 4 - FFC 3 Stoke 0
With Simon Davies and Alexey Smertin signed this week we finally look like a team with a squad again, and did a professional job on a Stoke side who could very easily have upset us. Great to see McBride start up front with Montella, they are my dream pairing, and both scored in the first half to set us on the way. I can’t believe we could possibly afford the transfer fee or wages of Montella full time so i guess we just need to enjoy him while we can. Radz, who is fast becoming one of our more consistent performers, notched a third before the hour and the job was done. Roll on Monday and the 5th round draw.

Game 24 - SheffieldUtd 2 FFC 0
Midweek game, up North, on a cold night, in January, playing a rough tough tackling side?
We were never gonna win .................. we didn't.

Game 25 - FFC 2 Newcastle 1
This is the first game I miss due to my "self-imposed ban". Bit of a cheat really as I was off for a boozy weekend in the Isle of Wight, but hey, anything for the good of the team. Appalling mobile reception on the Island mean my supposed "frequent text updates" don't come through as often as I would like from my friends at the match, but eventually the news reaches me that Helguson and McBride have scored to make it 2-0 and I am dancing in the streets of Ryde! The late consolation means nothing, and I am even more excited to read the following morning about the "surging run and pass" from Diop to set up our second goal. Crikey it's like we've gone from first eleven men in boots get a place in the team to a mighty squad of experienced internationals. Three well needed points and I'm smiling again.

Round up part 3 - Game 17 to 21

Game 17 - FFC 2 Middlesbrough 1
Monday night game on Sky, two early goals saw them off and despite a 2nd half strike from Viduka we held on for a very important 3 points.

Game 18 - FFC 0 West Ham United 0
Prior to this game I realised I was yet to see a Fulham win in my four games thus far. With the Hammers struggling I felt we had to be able to change that situation. A really enjoyable game with lots of effort from both sides. End to end football with plenty to shout about. Defensively solid, Christanval in particular looks a class act and Niemi made some great saves. Routledge really started to look the part in midfield, and was causing all sorts of problems to the West Ham defence, Radz worked really hard as well. My biggest disappointment was HH’s inability to find himself on the end of McBride’s flick ons. Brian wins everything in the air and I can’t understand why we don’t make more out of this. Maybe they are too similar in their style, but all round it didn’t seem to be Heidar’s day. A late surge from the Hammers was effectively ended when Routledge broke through only to be taken out by Konchesky who was red carded. In the car on the way home as I reflected on seeing my first points of the season I realised I was yet to see a Fulham goal either … hmmm.

Game 19 - Charlton 2 FFC 2
Xmas all over when it seemed like it had just begun and I’m back to BBC internet updates to keep track of this game. 2-1 down with time running out and my F5 key taking a pounding, I couldn’t take it any longer and switch to radio 5. Radzinski has given away a free kick … no it seems the linesman has given it Fulham’s way … I’m not sure how he’s come to that decision … Michael Brown takes it quickly … it’s in the box … QUEUDRUE! … it’s there! … FULHAM EQUALISE IN THE DYING SECONDS!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Game 20 - Chelsea 2 FFC 2
Same as Charlton, keeping one eye on t’internet, pleased to see Volzy score and amazed to hear it’s the 15000th Premiership goal, unsurprised to see the Filth draw level through a Lumpard deflected shot and then take the lead in the 2nd half. As the game draws to a close I have to stick the radio on and it works again! Third time this season – I LOVE RADIO 5! Another great effort from the team and a Bocanegra header earns us a fantastic point at the Dog Track.

Game 21 - FFC 0 Watford 0
So New Years day and this is crunch time. Thanks to the draw with West Ham I have now seen us "not lose", all I need is to see a goal. If we can’t score against Watford then I am going to seriously think about weather I attend again. To be fair we did everything but score, I did at least get to celebrate two goals as Heidar twice puts the ball in the back of the net only for both goals to be ruled out as offside. From my spot in the Hammy End both goals looked fine, but we weren’t in a position to disagree. Match of the Day confirms that the first decision was correct but the second was onside. We hammered Watford in the 1st half and they were without doubt the worst team I’d seen so far this season, however, they got themselves organised and 2nd half made it much harder for us. Particular mention must go to on loan ‘keeper Ben Foster who was immense, and at times was like an extra defender – a future England number 1? The game was completely overshadowed though by the injury to Antti Niemi. Boca failed to deal with a high ball and as Niemi came to clear he got caught up on Boca and Watford’s giant striker Henderson and came crashing down on his head. It looked horrible and I was very concerned for his health. Antti hadn’t been able to break his fall with his hands as he’d ended up trying to head the ball as he was on the edge of his area. Thankfully he seems to be on the mend (though not yet fit enough to play football, but that must be the least of his concerns).

One final mention to Maurice Cook who died prior to the game, a true Fulham great who scored 89 goals in 221 appearances during his seven years at Fulham.
Maurice Cook 1931 – 2006 R.I.P.

Self Imposed Ban
So having failed to see Fulham score for six consecutive matches I had to work out when I had last seen us hit the net. It was the last match I attended last season against Wigan a 1-0 win with out goal scored by Steed Malbranque. This means I have currently watched 585 minutes of football without a Fulham goal. I am horribly superstitious when it comes to Fulham so I have therefore decided to stop going until Fulham have enough points to guarantee safety. My next match was not due to be until February against Newcastle and as this clashes with a trip away with some mates it’s one I don’t mind missing, which leaves Fulham until the Blackburn game on April 21st to sort themselves out.