Monday, March 17, 2008

Fulham 1 Everton 0 - The Hammy End Rocks

Brian McBride's first goal since that fateful game at home to Middlesbrough secured the Whites a vital three points and gave us all a glimmer of hope. Everton had not won at the Cottage since 1966 and had lost all seven Premier League games in London, they'd played 120 minutes of football in Europe midweek and suffered the emotional drain of a penalties defeat. Despite all this I was not feeling confident as we set off for the game.

A late start, a minor malfunction with the car and horrendous traffic for a wet Sunday afternoon meant we arrived at the Cottage some 20 minutes in. There was a sense of nervous anticipation in the Hammy End and the boys & girls at the back were in good voice. Andy Johnson had already left the pitch and Fulham were playing the ball around quite nicely. Roy had pulled a surprise and lined up 4-4-2. Eddie Johnson was pushed up to partner McBride and it gave us more options. Bullard played a more disciplined role alongside Murphy in the centre, whilst Andreasen was pushed out to the right flank. With Johnson off, Everton (with no strikers on the bench after Anchibe had failed a late pre-match physical) were left with only Yakubu up front. This blunted their attacking options but it was Yakubu who had the best opportunity of the 25 minutes I saw. Given too much space on the edge of the box he ran at Hangeland and found room to fire in a decent shot straight at Keller.

With the Hammy End belting out the theme to The Great Escape the game was played at a higher tempo in the second half. Fulham seemed to take control of the game and worked very hard to find that important breakthrough. At 0-0 we were always in danger of being caught on the break and memories of the West Ham game were causing me anguish. The goal came after a moment of quality from Simon Davies on the left wing. Receiving the ball down the channel from Konchesky, he pushed it past the full back before delivering a nicely lofted cross into the danger area. We got a bit of fortune as Yobo got his head to the ball but he could only help it on it's way to Captain America who was in the perfect position to bang home a stooping header. The whole ground erupted and, a few nervous moments aside, we looked comfortable seeing the game out.

Special mentions for both full backs who pushed on to support our attacks but never abandoned their defensive duties. Stalteri has been impressing me more and more with each passing game and looked very sharp today. Konchesky was outstanding, pushing up more and more as the game progressed and showing the sort of spirit and passion we're going to need in abundance to survive this season. When Bocanegra was brought on to replace Danny Murphy, he took the left back position and Konchesky was allowed to move into midfield. Volz had another cameo role alongside Andreasen as he replaced Jimmy Bullard in midfield and Clint Dempsey looked greatly refreshed in the few minutes he got after replacing McBride who left the pitch to a standing ovation.

One last comment on Eddie Johnson who at times looked shocking. Having blazed a couple of shots high over the bar and shown poor control when well placed to cross I was thinking he lacked the experience needed for this sort of battle. However, Roy made a very powerful vote of confidence by leaving him on 'til the end and a fizzing drive in the dying minutes showed a hint of what might be to come. His pace and running helped us stretch the Blues back four, and he played well off McBride, finding good positions even if his skills let him down at times. With a bit of confidence gained and Roy likely to stick by him for the rest of the season he could have a huge impact still to make.

A great day then, one to enjoy and remember. The Hammy End sang loud and proud throughout and it seems in adversity we've remembered what it's like to be football fans again. The players responded on the pitch and made the effort to come and applaud at the end. We're still two points adrift and have an awful lot to do but the next seven days are going to be a lot more enjoyable and the game against Newcastle can't come soon enough.

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