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)

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