Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fulham 1 Wigan Athletic 1 - Match report

It was always going to be a tough task today. With the drama of the last 48 hours what could Ray Lewington and Billy McKinlay reasonably achieve. However for 45 minutes or so we did manage to play with more passion, freedom and flair than had been seen for some time. The crowd responded and had we taken just one of the chances we'd created in the first half this could have been a different story. The second half was disappointingly flat and the longer it went on the more we reverted to type. We seem incapable of defending balls in the air, something I've noticed before this season, and this proved to be our undoing yet again. The warning signs were there. Wigan had three or four long throws in the first half and every single one found a Wigan player, similarly high balls into our box invariably evaded all our defending players.

When Wigan took the lead it was from a Michael Brown lob which sailed above our backline, before falling to Marcus Bent to volley home. Kuqi came on in his usual smash and grab role and gave us not only an aerial presence but someone willing to chase a few lost causes. We sprung back to life for a bit and put Wigan under pressure again. A couple of near misses from Healy and Dempsey showed the way and soon after, a deep cross from Chris Baird found Kamara who directed the ball back across goal to where Clint Dempsey was lurking and able to slot home the equaliser. It was too much to ask for anything more, and both sides were happy to see the game peter out with honours even.

Listening to Radio 5 on the way home there were a couple of interesting quotes. Clint was interviewed live and following the normal stuff about being disappointed we hadn't made the most of our early superiority he was asked how the players had coped with the sudden departure of Sanchez. Clint was surprisingly candid and talked about how the players had responded to Ray and Billy's approach. He suggested they were given more freedom to play, and where no longer under orders to fire long diagonal balls at every opportunity. He didn't openly criticise Lawrie but it was clear he was already a happier player. The match reporter then quoted Ray Lewington saying that the current team were only a couple of players away from being a decent side. That they had been unbalanced so far this season and that a few key signings would make all the difference. Interesting views and certainly signs that things really weren't working under Sanchez.

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