An early start on a cold and sunny December morning and I felt I ought to be taking a leisurely walk by the river before popping into a pub with a roaring fire instead of watching a football game. Based on the opening few minutes it seems the players might have felt the same.
Five minutes in and we paid the price for not being fully switched on as a cross from the impressive Pablo Zabaleta found Benjani at the far post who rose between Aaron Hughes and John Paintsil to head home unimpeded. To Fulham's credit no one panicked. We stuck to the passing game plan. It took a bit of time, but gradually, pass by pass, we found our rhythm and took control of the game. AJ chased onto a through ball from Paintsil but was beaten to it by an advancing Joe Hart. Later AJ almost nicked past City centre back Richard Dunne but the ball caught Dunne's hand and the defender was extremely lucky to get away without conceding a penalty. We were very much in the ascendancy now and shortly afterwards claimed a deserved equaliser. Zamora played a neat reverse pass down the wing to find Bullard in space on the right. Jimmy cut inside to the penalty area and, just as it looked like he'd send a pass across the six yard box, he lashed home a screamer into the far side of the City net. A spectacular finish that I suspect 8 times out of 10 would have ended up by the corner flag, but a great goal none the less and Jimmy's first of the season.
It all seemed set for an exciting 2nd half but that failed to transpire. Hughes and Hangeland remained efficient at the back, Murphy did what he does, controlling our movement very well, Bullard took and missed a couple of freekicks, AJ looked dangerous and Zamora put in another man of the match performance with great control and interplay. We dominated the possession but couldn't find that spark of magic to find a way through. As the game drew to a close the crowd were flat and so were the players. A game crying out for an injection of something different from the bench, 15 minutes of Gera maybe or a short burst from Andreasen, but no, Roy decided to stick with what we had. It felt like an opportunity missed, a game we could have won if we'd just put that extra bit of effort in. Instead we extend our unbeaten run to five games and travel to Stoke looking for that elusive first away win of the season. Not brilliant but not that bad either. Let's hope that doesn't end up being the epitaph for our season as we've seen that at our best we can be so much more.
One Sleep from Wembley
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