Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fulham 3 Portsmouth 1 - Ice Cool Nevland

Crowd favourite Eric Nevland comes off the bench, on a bitterly cold afternoon, to score twice and seal a win that warmed the hearts of Fulham fans everywhere and the hands of those in the ground.

This wasn't the comfortable win the scoreline might suggest. An early goal from Andy Johnson gave us a much needed confidence boost. A neat pass from Clint Dempsey sprung Pompey's offside trap and Johnson made a well timed run to collect the pass and send a well placed shot into the far right corner. However, we spent much of the rest of the half on the back foot as Portsmouth surged forward in search of an equalizer. Younes Kaboul smashed a powerful header against the crossbar and there were several mad scrambles as we defended with a slight air of desperation.

Jermaine Pennant caused us all sorts of problems down the right flank and old-boy Sean Davis was looking impressive in the centre. Davis even had a decent effort on target, which arrived quicker than Schwarzer may have expected but was still well covered. Meanwhile the Ethuhu/Murphy partnership was beginning to gel. Whilst Murphy missed the luxury of a dynamic counterpart to pass to, Davies and Dempsey worked hard to offer alternatives. Dickson was much more involved today, more accurate with his passing and stuck to his task successfully. Portsmouth continued to create chances though and had a couple of penalty shouts turned down. Late on John Paintsil, who was entertaining and energetic throughout, made a fantastic sliding challenge to prevent a Peter Crouch shot from heading goalwards.

I spent a lot of the game cheering on Zamora, partly out of concern for his psychological well being. He's clearly low on confidence and it seems with every game he's doing less of the things that he did well early on. It was obvious fairly early in the second half that, despite my best efforts, this wasn't going to be his day and no surprise when he was replaced by Eric Nevland on 63 minutes. Nevland was lively from his first moment on the pitch and showed why so many fans feel he deserves a proper chance. A long ball over the top from Simon Davies put Eric through one on one against James and the Norwegian finished exquisitely, using the outside of his right foot to score in the far corner. Nine minutes later it was all over after Pompey failed to clear their lines and Davies again found Nevland in the box, making space for himself before firing another low shot to the right hand corner.

A soft concession, Nugent somehow eluding his marker to head home unchallenged from a Pennant free kick, made the last few minutes more nervy than they should have been, but we held on to claim the win. A lot of hard work still to come but this was an encouraging performance.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey (Gera 90), Etuhu, Murphy, Davies, Zamora (Nevland 63), Johnson. Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Teymourian, Gray, Stoor, Kallio.

Goals: Johnson 14, Nevland 71, 80.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Kaboul (Pamarot 76), Distin, Hreidarsson, Pennant, Davis, Mullins, Armand Traore (Utaka 63), Kanu (Nugent 46), Crouch. Subs Not Used: Begovic, Lauren, Mvuemba, Little.

Booked: Mullins. Goals: Nugent 84.

Att: 23,722

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunderland 1 Fulham 0 (micro post)

Depressingly familiar story away from home. Kenwynne Jones scored the only goal just before the hour mark after Schwarzer had parried a shot from Djibril Cisse. We've changed from a team on a nine game unbeaten run to a team that's only won one game in nine. The transfer window clock is ticking down and there's a whiff of panic in the air. The squad certainly seems worryingly small and a few key players are struggling for form. We're not really doing a great deal differently though and if last season taught us anything it's that staying positive can lead to great rewards. A big game on Saturday either way.

Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney (McShane,70), Malbranque, Whitehead, Tainio (Leadbitter, 81), Reid (Edwards, 75), Cisse, Jones Subs not used: Colgan, Diouf, Chopra, Healy

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies (Gera, 76), Etuhu (Nevland, 83), Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora Subs not used Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Andreasen, Kallio, Baird

Bookings: None

Att: 36, 539

Referee: M R Halsey (Lancashire)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kettering 2 Fulham 4

We’ve been here before. Tricky away ties at non-league opposition have traditionally been another opportunity for Fulham to fail miserably. For neutrals and pundits this was more or less a foregone conclusion, for fans of the Whites it was a banana skin waiting to be trodden on. I’m incredibly superstitious when it comes to football so an early morning trip down the high street gave me the chance to put a contingency bet on a Kettering win (£5 at 6-1) to cancel out any jinx I might be generating. The Radio 5Live commentator didn’t make me feel a great deal better when he mentioned it had been twenty years since a non-league side last knocked a top flight team out of the F.A. cup. Fulham are good at those sort of firsts!

I watched the game via a combination of internet stream and Radio 5Live commentary. There was a five second delay between the voices and the pictures which meant whenever the commentator got excited I could rush to my PC and see it happen. The marvels of modern living. Five minutes in and there was a small sign of what may be to come. Hangeland let a ball drop over his head, hoping Schwarzer would be on hand to collect it. Kettering’s lively ex-Forest striker Craig Westcarr nipped in but failed to generate much power or direction with his shot. Hangeland and Schwarzer huffed and puffed until Konchesky arrived to spare their blushes. We recovered from this and started to play the ball about. Dempsey received the ball out wide on the right, jinked around a Kettering defender before sending a lovely cross towards the middle of the area where Simon Davies was waiting to fire home a perfect first time volley.

1-0 Fulham and we could all relax a bit. For five or ten minutes Fulham looked comfortable and in control. It wasn’t to last. Kettering pushed up about ten yards and started to close us down more quickly. No clear cut chances but the emphasis was definitely with them now. Westcarr was chopped down on the edge of the area. He picked himself up to fire in the free kick, nothing spectacular but it caught Gera in no man’s land (behind the wall and obscuring Schwarzer’s view), glanced off his ribs and into the net.

The second half began much as the first had ended. Kettering were piling forward as often as they could and making life difficult for us. Westcarr and Seddon both had chances and some players, Hangeland in particular, did not seem to be enjoying the afternoon. On the hour mark a ball from the right wing found acting-skipper John Dempster unmarked in the box but he was unable to direct his header on target. Soon after Murphy and Zamora replaced Ethuhu and Gera. This was to be a turning point in the game. Murphy’s craft and experience brought some much needed quality to our midfield. A long ball from Danny found Zamora unmarked in the box, but the striker showed his lack of confidence with a poor effort off target. On 77 minutes we did take the lead as Murphy and Davies exchanged passes before a Murphy shot deflected off Exodus Geohaghan. Surely now we could hold onto the game?

No. Westcarr got the wrong side of Hangeland who didn’t seem to make much contact but certainly got tangled up. Both players went down and Old Mother Riley pointed to the spot. Westcarr again dusted himself down before sending his penalty beyond Schwarzer’s grasp. 2-2 and I was ready to settle for a replay. Kettering’s tails were up and the crowd were scenting a shock. However, two goals in a minute sealed the result and broke the hearts of the Poppies support. A high looping cross (I think from Murphy) seemed to be harmlessly drifting out of play, Kettering ‘keeper Harper let it go, but the alert Zamora was on hand to head it back across goal to where Andy Johnson was waiting to head home our 3rd. Then, almost straight from the restart, a pass though the centre found Zamora in space and he turned and lashed home a 4th from the edge of the box.

The final score flattered us a little but we stuck to the task at hand and did a professional job over the ninety minutes. Kettering fans have a lot to feel proud of, they took us to the brink of a replay, and certainly created enough changes to have turned us over. A cracking game that sums up the beauty of the cup. We've another tricky draw in the next round, away at Swansea, which will see our first competitive match against the Swans (albeit at a different stadium) since the day we were relegated to the bottom division in 1994.

Kettering: Harper, Eaden, Geohaghan, Dempster, Jaszczun (Potter 71), Bennett, Boucaud, Solkhon, Richard Graham (Marna 89), Westcarr, Seddon (Beardsley 73) Subs Not Used: Wrack, Galbraith.
Booked: Richard Graham, Dempster, Westcarr.
Goals: Westcarr 36, 83 pen.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Stoor, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Andreasen, Etuhu (Murphy 69), Gera (Zamora 69), Johnson, Dempsey Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Pantsil, Nevland, Kallio, Baird.
Booked: Hangeland.
Goals: Davies 12, Murphy 77, Johnson 88, Zamora 89.

Att: 5,406

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bullard leaves for Hull

All players are journey men now. It's about salary and contracts and signing on fees. First thing this morning I was confident there was no way Jimmy would want to leave London and head up North again just to claim a bigger pay packet. We might be neck and neck with Hull in the table but surely he'd rather stay at a club that he liked, a club that had stood by him during his worst period of injury and a club that seemed back on course to maintain its Premier League status. I thought this was all about Fulham playing hardball and trying to focus Jimmy on what was really important to him. I guess in many ways we did and he choose financial stability and an extended contract. Who can blame him? Reports suggest Hull City have given Bullard a 4½ year deal and a big salary increase. He wouldn't have got that with us.

Fair play to Hull. They're backing their ambition with hard cash. They've set the Premier League alight this season. Similar to Wigan Athletic and Reading in previous campaigns they've taken the league by the scruff of the neck and upset the established hierarchy. I felt they'd already done enough to retain their Premier League status, but the tightness of the league and their current drop in form suggested it could still be close. Knowing Jimmy they might have just signed a player who can make a difference and make sure they stay up not just this year but for some time to come. Hull fans have been quick to defend their club's status and rightly so. I'm still stunned Jimmy's chosen Hull over Fulham but realistically we're not that far apart.

Fulham will certainly miss Bullard's infectious enthusiasm on the pitch. It seemed at times that he wasn't really Hodgson's type of player, but recent games have highlighted exactly how much we'll miss him when he's not around. Jimmy's work rate was second to none and, although he had conceded to Hodgson's direction and reigned himself in this season, he added a spark to the side that we don't have without him. At 30 with a bad knee injury in his recent past maybe £5Million is a good deal but at the end of the day it's all about who we find to replace him. Within the current squad we have a few contenders. My personal belief is that Zoltan Gera would be better suited to a central role and may flourish given a bit more freedom. Leon Andreasen has been getting frustrated with his lack of opportunity and may now get the chance to prove himself and more established first teamers such as Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey could also fill the void. It's not the end of the world. We've been hotly linked with Leeds wonder kid Fabian Delph. The addition of some young blood to our effective but aging side can only be a good thing. Maybe Jimmy's departure can pave the way for an exciting future. Who knows.

Good luck to Jimmy. Good luck to Hull. Can't wait for March 4th!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

London League - Fulham still top

Following our game on Sunday thought I'd do an update of the London League table. Despite the loss we're still top (mainly because that's been the only London Derby since the last table) although all the teams below us have games in hand. West Ham climb above Spurs despite the fact that the only London team they've beaten all season is us. Did I mention bogey team already? Our next London opponents are Arsenal, so I'll update the table again after that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

West Ham United 3 Fulham 1 (micro post)

Last night I travelled up to Putney to see John Otway play the Half Moon. A good night. At least up until a journey home from hell. Having caught the last train back to Shepperton (delayed twenty minutes) South West Trains decided to terminate it's journey at Teddington. One o'clock in the morning and there's 30 strangers all waiting for a promised group of taxi's to arrive to take us home. I eventually clambered into bed around three in the morning.

Today it seems Fulham played like they were all on the same train. West Ham are fast becoming our bogey team. Three individual errors really didn't help our cause and a blockbuster shot from Paul Konchesky, that kept us in the game at the half way point, was just about our only effort on goal.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies (Gera 74), Etuhu (Andreasen 84), Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Nevland 72).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Kallio, Baird.

Goals: Konchesky 22 Booked: Paintsil, Davies, Konchesky

West Ham: Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker, Noble (Faubert 81), Collison (Mullins 83), Cole, Di Michele (Dyer 87).
Subs Not Used: Stech, Boa Morte, Tristan, Sears.

Goals: Di Michele 7, Noble 60, Cole 76 Booked: Behrami

Att: 31, 818

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

League Position: 10th

Monday, January 12, 2009

Have thermals, will travel (Blackburn postponed)

Saturday morning in Shepperton and I awake to a scene resembling a Christmas card. All very pretty but nothing to unduly concern me. The phrase match postponement didn't enter my thoughts. I had no concerns when Dad rang to ask if I thought the game would still go ahead, though I did keep one eye on the Internet from that point on. Dad headed up from Sussex and I popped down the High Street. It really was a magical sight, a thin covering of frost on the ground and sparkling ice in all the trees. Quite cold but surely not bad enough to stop a Premier League game from going ahead?

I decided to dig out my thermal underwear which took a bit of finding and eventually involved a trip to the loft and the movement of a fair number of boxes. I had Radio 5 on when Dad arrived. As he walked through the door they announced that the game at Portsmouth was off. Uh-oh. News filtered through of a pitch inspection, thanks largely to TiFF, and then, at the exact moment we were about to leave the house, confirmation that the game was postponed. Bugger!

I'd been up to the club shop the week before to get replica shirts for both my boys with some of their Christmas money. They'd not had much in stock and we'd planned to collect the one for my eldest on the way to the game. With not much else to do, and some doe eyes to encourage us, we decided to go up anyway. Arriving in Fulham there were plenty of home fans milling about, some filling the football shaped hole in their day with an extended stay in the pub, some heading for home. Blackburn fans probably didn't have the same options, booked on coaches and trains well in advance and with no alternative but to stick with those arrangements. It made me wonder weather Rob Styles would have been better waiting until nearer kick-off before making a decision.

We made it back before the half-times and settled down for a cup of tea and a chat. The kids arrived home shortly afterwards and got very excited about the new football tops. We had a mini fashion show as they tried them on and pulled their best football star shapes. An oddly satisfying day despite the lack of any actual match.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

F.A. Cup 3rd Round - Sheffield Wednesday 1 Fulham 2 (micro post)

So my plan for 2009 is to cut back a little on posts but to help me keep track of what's happened and give the blog some sort of structure I'm going to put these mini-reports up. It might mean I'm just repeating stuff you can get on the BBC but hopefully you'll be able to pick out the wheat from the chaff fairly easily.

A great start to the year and our F.A. Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Wednesday thanks to a brace from Andy Johnson. Hodgson fielded a strong side with Stoor, replacing Paintsil at right back, and Julian Gray (making his Fulham debut), on the left wing instead of Simon Davies, the only changes to the side that drew with the other team in Fulham. Andy Johnson struck early to give us the lead on 12 minutes. It was less than ten minutes however, before Tommy Spurr equalised with a cracking shot from distance. The scores remained level for most of the match but we snatched the win with AJ's second goal two minutes before the end of normal time.

The 4th round draw is live on ITV at 3:25 tomorrow, we're ball number 2.

Sheff Wed: Grant ,Buxton ,Beevers ,Wood ,Spurr ,Small(Modest ,78 ) ,McAllister ,O'Connor ,Boden ,Jeffers ,Johnson (Lekaj ,89)
Subs not used: Jameson,Liversidge,Wragg
Goals: Spurr (21)

Fulham: Schwarzer ,Stoor ,Hughes ,Hangeland ,Konchesky ,Gray (Davies ,77 ) ,Etuhu ,Murphy ,Dempsey ,Johnson ,Zamora (Nevland ,69)
Subs not used: Zuberbuhler,Pantsil,Andreasen,Kallio,Baird
Goals: Johnson (12, 88)

Bookings: O'Connor (Sheff Wed)

Attendance: 18,377

Referee: Lee Mason

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

It's been an amazing footballing year for the club bookended by contrasting matches at home to that other side in the borough. My posting from now on may become somewhat sporadic but I'll try to keep things ticking over as best I can. Best wishes to you all for 2009, keep the faith and come on you Whites!

Picture courtesy of via TiFF