I wasn't not sure if it was going to be possible for me to write a sensible match report after what was basically 90 minutes of anguish. As a game of football it certainly wasn't a classic but as a memorable moment in Fulham's history it was massive. I'd spent most of the week struggling to work out how I was going to watch the game. I wasn't confident enough to buy a ticket, partly superstision, partly believing we were already down. The Cottage "beam back" had sold out as well and my options for going to the pub were being limited by a lack of places with Setanta within a reasonable distance from home. On Saturday, with all sensible options eliminated and my services as a BBQ cook required for Sunday tea, I added Setanta to my cable package and relaxed in the knowledge I'd be able to watch from the comfort of my living room.
In the last few weeks I had come to terms with what being relegated would mean. In my head we were down after losing to Sunderland so I'd had a chance to consider Championship life, and I was ready to accept it as another chapter in the adventure that began the day Micky Adams became manager. That said, having seen us achieve such a remarkable reversal of fortune, there was no doubt I wanted us to stay in the top flight and begin an eighth season in the top division (a step nearer our longest spell of nine seasons). I've also had a close eye on Bolton and Blackburn (the other members of the class of 2001) and was keen for us not to be the first of the three to drop.
The first half saw Portsmouth much the stronger team. They gave us little space to work in, had more attempts at goal and always looked dangerous on the break. The highlight of the half came quite early on when Simon Davies found a bit of space in the box and fired a shot that seemed to strike the post. Replays showed it was actually an excellent save from Jamie Ashdown.
The second began with Fulham clearly pushing a bit harder to find a way through. It was frustrating stuff though, Bullard was struggling to find white shirts with his passing and Pompey seemed comfortable soaking up any speculative long balls. With Reading and Birmingham both winning their games, and Pompey quick to counter the more we pushed forward, the omens weren't good. Kamara showed willing up front but was never quite in the right place and I was certain he'd be making way for the imminent arrival of Eric Nevland. Not so, Dempsey was the man replaced (I'd felt he'd been deliberately restrained and had worked his socks off yet again) with Kamara dropping back to the right wing. Pompey also made two key changes about this time, Sean Davies and Milan Baros replacing Pedro Mendes and Kanu.
Kamara went on one of his aimless runs but was brought down to give Bullard another chance with the dead ball. Jimmy had not been at his best up 'til that point but this time delivered the perfect ball high into the box. Kamara, possibly a fraction offside, was the first Fulham player to react but as it sailed over his head the diminutive figure of Danny Murphy rose to head home from six yards. The net bulged, the lino kept his flag down, the away supporters went wild and so did I. 1-0 Fulham and a little over 15 minutes to hold out. If the first 75 minutes had been hard to watch the last 15 were murder. Portsmouth pushed forward in numbers and had us back peddling for all we were worth. We struggled to retain the ball but showed remarkable focus to clear the danger when ever we could. A flurry of late corners all survived, Jimmy running the ball into the corner but losing possession, then pandemonium as the whistle blew. I did my best impression of David Pleat on my own in the front room, and cheered loud enough to be heard at Fratton Park. My phone was going off non-stop for the next half an hour with messages of congratulations. An amazing end to a difficult season and just reward for Roy Hodgson who throughout the game sat unmoved by the turmoil he must have felt. As we reclaimed possession just before the final whistle he mouthed "We've done it" to Ray Lew and once it had gone he remained a man in complete control of his emotions.
Unbelievable stuff, having accepted relegation it feels like winning Promotion. Four wins in five games, three consecutive victories on the road and an escape that will go down in Premier League history as one of the most unlikely ever.
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