As Andy Johnson was poking home his first goal for Fulham and his 100th in the league I was somewhere along the Lower Richmond Road. A later departure than intended and unexpectedly dreadful traffic meant I missed most of the first half. That didn’t stop me and my passenger Gibbo, longstanding pal and Fulham compatriot, celebrating as though we were there. We didn’t care that we’d missed the goal and were just pleased we’d taken an early lead.
By the time we got to our seats Fulham’s initial good play had somewhat dissipated and Wigan were in the ascendancy. Just before half time Zaki made use of the space out wide, evaded Paintsil and fired in a great cross which was too high for Schwarzer and found Paul Scharner unmarked at the far post. The Austrian saw his header fly just over the crossbar, it was a big let off for the Whites.
The second half saw Fulham have a very early chance to increase the lead. Zamora did well out wide on right, evaded a Wigan defender and sent a dangerous ball across the six yard box. This eventually fell to Gera who was unlucky to see his shot come back of the post before eventually being cleared. Bullard seemed to having another game where things just weren’t quite working for him. However, on the hour mark, Jimmy saw Andy Johnson make a smart run and took a swift free kick to set the striker clear in the box. Johnson, showing a goal scorer’s instinct, turned sharply towards goal and fired home from an acute angle. Two goals to the good and life became a little easier. Wigan were now forced to attack with more intent (bringing on Jason Koumas, who has played well against us on more than one occasion in the past, for a defender) and Fulham looked more confident on the ball and benefited from the additional space they were given up front.
Clint Dempsey arrived to a good reception when he replaced Gera on the left. Andy Johnson had a great chance for a hatrick when Bobby Zamora sent him through with just Kirkland to beat. His touch let him down and Kirkland came off worst as the striker stretched a desperate toe out to reach the ball. AJ made a good job of his apologies and got away without a card. Chris Baird must be doing the right things to impress Hodgson, coming on for Bullard to play a defensive midfield role and see out the final ten minutes. With the clock ticking down AJ was taken off to receive a standing ovation and was replaced by the ever popular Eric Nevland. Dempsey had our last chance to make it three, showing neat touch to create an opportunity but sending his curling shot just wide of the post.
An important win then, one I wasn’t confident of before the game. We didn’t really play any better than we had against Sunderland or Portsmouth but we took our chances and grew in confidence as the game went on. Johnson took all the headlines but it was Danny Murphy’s performance that stood out for me. Working hard throughout and orchestrating not just our forward play but our defensive work as well.