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.