Monday, April 28, 2008

Man City 2 Fulham 3 - Still alive!

I spent most of Saturday afternoon deliberately avoiding the score. It was a gloriously sunny day and I'd already spent most of the morning with my eldest cleaning the car, as we both avoided the likely carnage caused by my youngest having a 4 year old friend round to play (actually it all went remarkably well, but at least we got the car sparkling!). In the afternoon we invaded my neighbour's garden to chop back what was left of an old Italian vine which had laid claim to my garage roof for some time. Having cut off as much as we could from our side of the garden, my neighbour was only too pleased to have us come round and finish off the job from his side.

We did really well, the garage looks much tidier and my neighbour has more light. My eldest was again really keen to help (it had been his enthusiasm to go up ladders and hack things down that had got me started on the whole thing in the first place) and was very industrious as the four of us cleared away the dead vine. The potential metaphor for Fulham's predicament was not lost on me. I had taken a sneaky check of the scores and was already aware that we were a goal down. Later my son popped home to check on his younger brother and returned with the news that we were now two down and both Birmingham and Bolton were winning. The "R" word flash in front of my eyes and I went back to sweeping up sticks.

Job done Mrs Chopper went home to get the tea on whilst my son continued an ongoing Tiger Woods Golf tournament on my neighbour's PlayStation. I had a couple of beers while they played out an exciting nine holes and I put all thoughts of football scores far from my mind. Game over, my son narrowly defeated on the final hole, and we returned home for tea. Mrs C mentioned my Dad had called about the game and said it had finished 3-2. I naturally assumed we'd lost after a gallant fight back. It was a good half hour before I went to check the scores and realised we won. My God! We won!! A quick check of the other scores to see that Birmingham, Bolton and Reading had all drawn and a look at the table to see if my maths were correct - Yes! Yes, Yes, Yes!!! We're still in it, we're still alive, we're still hanging on by the skin of our teeth! Bloody YES!!!!!!!!!

Of course this inevitably raises our hopes of a miracle escape which might make our failure to do so hurt even more. This weekend's game against Birmingham is going to be as tense as they come for both teams, it's unlikely to be one we can sit back and enjoy, but I'm just pleased we've still got something to fight and cheer for.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fulham v Liverpool - An alternative view

My friend and "celebrity Road to Wembley" blogger Andy was at the game on Saturday and has written a nice report of the day and his view on the Fulham situation here. Worth a read if you can bare to re-live it all again.

Villa did us a favour yesterday by thumping Birmingham 5-1 but Man City looked ominously impressive in their 3-1 win over F.A. Cup bound Portsmouth. I'm clutching at very small straws now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fulham 0 Liverpool 2 - Not long now

Having thought it was definitely over after Sunderland only to have our hopes raised following Reading it was typically Fulhamish that we'd lose this game, effectively ending any remaining thoughts of salvation. Unexpectedly we'd gone into this game with renewed belief, a win really could have put us back in contention and the first 15 minutes showed a side desperate to achieve that and a crowd ready to cheer them all the way one more time. It wasn't to be. Liverpool rested a few key stars but still fielded a decent starting eleven. It's a sign of how far we've fallen that we were really no match for them.

The first goal pretty much won the game, before it we looked lively and keen, after it we looked pedestrian and concerned. A crisp pass from the impressive Luca in midfield left our entire back four flat footed, and Jermaine Pennant comfortably outpaced Hangeland before firing a swift shot past the static Keller. The American 'keeper appeared to think about attempting a save but changed his mind only to see it nestle in the back of his net. A shockingly simple goal. We had moments after that and tried hard to get back into the game but the belief had gone. We lacked energy, lost most of the 50/50's and seemed always to be second to react to changes in the play. The second goal when it came was depressingly similar to the first. Neat play from the Liverpool midfield, a through ball from Pennant that cut out our whole defence, and a powerful shot from Crouch that, whilst straight at Keller, was pretty much unstoppable.

Few players came out with much credit. Simon Davies was our greatest attacking threat, placing a number of decent crosses it the right areas. Paul Stalteri pushed forward well and was energetic throughout. Healy worked hard to make something happen but was flagging by the time Nevland replaced him. In centre midfield Murphy was a luxury we really couldn't afford and Bullard again looked like he was trying too hard to make it happen for us. This was encapsulated for me as we made our last despairing attempts to pull something back in the closing stages. McBride had picked up the ball on the edge on the penalty area after a previous shot had been saved, he looked up to see Jimmy calling for the ball on the far side of the "D". Brian lofted a ball straight to Jimmy who attempted a volley only to see it skew tamely wide of the post. Kamara replaced McBride and Andreasen replaced Murphy as Roy made his final throw of the dice. Our last chance came from Dempsey, who had earlier managed to direct a couple of tricky headers goalwards, but his shot was deflected just wide of the post.

It's really just a matter of time, a win at Manchester City could give us something to shout for in the last home game. Reading, Birmingham and Bolton could still make it hard for themselves but at best we can manage 36 points and that is unlikely to be enough to stay in the Premier League.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Vibes from The Neil Cowley Trio

Not trying to steal CCN's thunder but I thought I'd go with a bit of music to get us in the mood. If anyone watched Jools Holland a few weeks back they may have enjoyed a serious Jazz workout from The Neil Cowley Trio. They've been getting some good reviews for their debut album from a wide range of places (Mojo and The Telegraph for starters), but more to the point for Neil (Pianist) is a Fulham fan. I used to live across the road from Richard (Double Bass) and Neil moved in for a while. Neil went off to tour with Zero 7 (don't let that put you off) and I suspect has been doing a lot of session work. This is very much his own thing though and whilst I'm no Jazz fan I really enjoyed it. They're nice guys too and I think have been doing this sort of stuff for a while, so it's great to see them get some recognition for a style of music they obviously love.

Some good stuff on their MySpace page if you fancy it -

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reading 0 Fulham 2 - It ain't over 'til it's over

Our first away win since the 9th September 2006. Nineteen months of depressingly consistent failure finally ended and, just when we all thought it was going to end with a whimper, there's a faint hope that we've not quite dead and buried. I got back from a couple of days down at my Dad's in time to watch the scoreline via the Internet, but a night out with the boys and a rare "first game on" slot meant I missed both showings of MOTD and am still yet to see any of the action. There's some good first hand reports from FtF here, here, and here and from CCN here with pictures here which all capture what sounds like a cracking day out.

Whilst my brain told me we'd blown it after the Derby and Sunderland games I knew that I wouldn't really accept that we're down until it's mathematically confirmed and the BBC have got an R next to our name on the league table. I still have a vivid memory of my Dad taking me to a Tuesday night game back in the Eighties. The details are a little vague but I think it was a Third Division match against Cambridge United. We were losing, possibly 3-0, and with 15 minutes left most of the crowd around me were moaning and grumbling about every mistake. The reaction annoyed me and spurred me on to cheer every cross, applaud every shot and generally sing as loud as I could to show my support. It didn't make any difference to the final score, we didn't manage a late revival, we didn't even manage a consolation goal, but I felt a lot better about the part I'd played. I'm older now and am probably a little more ready to accept when a game is lost. That said even if my head tells me we've lost, as it did against Sunderland, I'll still be ready to cheer the team on and hang onto the shred of hope we could spring a surprise. I'll have everything crossed for the rest of the season, you never know what might happen if you keep believing.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fulham 1 Sunderland 3 - Autopsy report

In many ways this game encapsulated our entire season. We started brightly, played the ball around well and created a couple of decent early chances. Ultimately we paid the price for not being able to take those chances and making some very basic defensive mistakes.

It had all begun so well. The crowd were up for it and making a great noise and the team looked determined and ready for the fight. The first 15 minutes were possibly our best of the game. Bullard lofted a ball over the Sunderland back line which McBride connected with in the penalty area but could only send a fairly tame header directly at the 'keeper. Then Simon Davies lashed in a shot from distance which flew just high of the crossbar. Not long after that we had our first warning of what was to come, Danny Collins nodding home an Andy Reid freekick which was thankfully disallowed when Referee Halsey spotted a push in the melee. We failed to learn from this though, and whilst Fulham continued to play football going forward, defensively we were second to the ball time and again. There was still a lot to feel positive about but when Sunderland scored a minute before the break you could feel the positivity drain out of the crowd and the team.

We started the second half in similar fashion to the first but again failed to take an early chance. McBride stretched to direct a header goalwards and Kamara was slow to react to the rebound. But before we had time to start believing again we were caught by a sucker punch. A big hoof up-field from Craig Gordan was knocked on by Kenwyne Jones, who comfortably out leaped Hangeland, Hughes lost the flight of the ball and Chopra was on hand to lob Keller. Nuts. Hodgson made some changes to try and rescue the game moving to a 3-4-3 formation with Healy and Dempsey coming on for Stalteri and Andreasen (who had just been crocked by a lunging tackle from Konchesky). Healy scored out of nothing, after seemingly losing control of the ball he sent a curling shot into the top right hand corner of the net. Suddenly we might have grasped an unlikely lifeline. It wasn't to be. Just like at Derby we went to sleep at the back and conceded within minutes. This time Hangeland had a moment of madness, twice failing to deal with a innocuous ball, and then getting further into trouble as Daryl Murphy brushed past him and set up Jones for the killer blow. It was shocking stuff. We made a poor team look good and demonstrated exactly why we're in the position we're in. We're not good enough for this league any more and it's going to be a long hard road to get back.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday snippet

This headline from FulhamWeb about the Ref for Saturday's game made me chuckle - Fulham hater Halsey back for Sunderland - oh well, I reckon he owes us a favour or two!

Also it's FA Cup weekend (if only ...) so, seeing as how the competition seems to have recaptured its magic this season, I've done a Top 5 FA Cup Semi Finals on my other blog.

Er ... that's it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Desperate Times

I'm trying hard not to think too deeply about our chances of staying up. I'm coming to terms with the reality that we're very likely to be going down. If it wasn't us in this position I'd probably have written the occupants off a couple of weeks ago. However, I couldn't resist checking the remaining games of our nearest rivals to see if we could get away with an unlikely recovery.

FFC .... 24pnts - Sun (H), Rea (A), Liv (H), ManC (A), Bir (H), Por (A)
Bolton . 26pnts - AV (A), WHU (H), Mid (A), Tot (A), Sun (H), Che (A)
Birm' ... 30pnts - Wig (A), Eve (H), AV (A), Liv (H), FFC (A), Bla (H)
Wigan . 31pnts - Bir (H), Che (A), Tot (H), Rea (H), AV (A), ManU (H)
Read'g . 32pnts - New (A), FFC (H), Ars (A), Wig (A), Tot (H), Der (A)
Sund' ... 33pnts - FFC (A), ManC (H), New (A), Mid (H), Bol (A), Ars (H)

I tried to work out realistically how many points I thought each team might achieve. It didn't make me feel any better about our situation. We really do need a miracle. Of course the longer we stay in contention and the more wins we collect the better our chances but right now it's hard to see us gaining more than 10 points and even that won't be enough. We really do have to win the next two games or it's curtains.

Ah well, not much point in worrying about things we can't control. I'm still looking forward to our remaining three home games. There's been a great atmosphere at the last couple and if the team responds, as it did against Everton, we could be in for an exciting climax.