Sunday, March 29, 2009

Top 5 moments from the 2-0 win over United

I've had a frustrating week one way or another. Had lots of things I wanted to say about the cracking result last Saturday but didn't have any time to write. Even in the few moments I've had to think about it I wasn't sure how best to express my thoughts about the game. A game to remember. One that will stay with me for the rest of my life. When in doubt ... do a Top 5!

5. Waving bye-bye to Wayne Rooney - I've no axe to grind with Rooney. He's a great player and made a big difference when he replaced Berbatov at half time. Even with ten men we all knew United were capable of beating us and for a while in the second half I couldn't quite believe they weren't. Our second goal was too much though and Rooney's frustration was the physical evidence that the game was up. It was the final pantomime moment in a game that had made me laughing as hard as I cheered.

4. Danny Murphy's perfect penalty - My admiration for Danny Murphy right now knows no bounds. I'll be the first to admit I didn't rate him too highly last season but I've realised the error of my ways. He's been a revelation this season (the best midfielder in the Premier League?) and seems to get better every week. He does the simple stuff brilliantly and yet again was the conductor at the heart of a majestic team performance. As he stepped up to take the penalty I felt the buzz of my phone as a text arrived. It was from a Spurs supporting friend who later said he knew Murphy wouldn't miss. He was right.

3. 20,000 Fulham fans calling Ronaldo a wanker - That might seem childish and puerile but it confirmed a growing belief in my stomach that we were going to win the game. United, already a goal and a player down, were clearly getting frustrated with the Ref's refusal to fall for their attempts to win free kicks or get Fulham players sent off. I've often joked with my pals about "Fortress Cottage" and proposed ways to turn our ground into the Galatasary of south west London. Craven Cottage is not the most intimidating of grounds yet, as Ronaldo stood pleading with Phil Dowd for yet another fictional offence, we made our feelings clear. As he sulked off away from the home end it was clear we had got to him. The supposed "best player in the world" and he couldn't handle a barracking from nice little Fulham. For all his tricks and flicks he's got a lot of growing up to do before he can really show he's good enough to stand alongside the greats of the game. Maybe if he'd focused on his football he could have made a difference.

2. Sensing the big match atmosphere as we entered the Hammy End - Maybe familiarity breeds contempt but I wasn't particularly excited about playing United before we arrived. The traffic was bad and we cut it a bit finer than we'd have liked so the match was seconds from kick-off as we climbed the steps into the Hammersmith End. As I stepped into the stand the sense of anticipation was tangible. This was a massive game, a real big match atmosphere. My mood changed instantly and I felt strangely optimistic for a good result. A good game at least. That feeling never left me. A great day.

1. Zoltan Gera's overhead volley - Zoltan Gera hadn't won my sympathy in the way Bobby Zamora had. Whilst I could see he was going through a difficult settling in phase I didn't feel moved enough to really support him. His arrival against United was a necessary change coming at the point where Dempsey's willingness to chase every ball was finally overcome by his bout of food poisoning. We needed a fresh pair of legs. He did well in the build up to the second goal, collected it from Dickson Etuhu, played a good pass to AJ who almost got a shot in before returning the ball. As Gera chipped it up off his toe the first thought through my mind was - oh Zoltan, you've messed that up. Then something incredible happened. The ball hung in the air, Gera twisted his body in an unlikely shape and pulled off an amazing overhead volley into the far corner. A goal! A really great goal! A goal that was going to beat Manchester United! Hooray for Zoltan! Zoltan, destroyer of worlds!.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

When the Whites Go Marching In

Got lots I'd like to talk about following yesterday but not sure when I'll have time to do it. It's Mother's Day and I've promised Mrs Chopper I'll wash the floor in the kitchen and hoover the rest of the house. Half way through but lots to do. Cooking a roast too - I'm so New Man!.

Anyway, to tide you over read
this excellent report from Dan at While you're there you might want to bask in the glory with Roy's praise of a great team performance and Dickson's reaction.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fulham 2 Manchester United 0

Let me just say that again. Fulham 2 Manchester United 0. Brilliant. Today was what playing in the Premier League is all about. Fulham were on top of their game from the start and United couldn't cope.

Short report. Fulham pushing forward. Scholes hand ball. Straight red and a penalty. Murphy slots home as he always does. 1-0 Fulham. United frustrated. Ronaldo pathetic. Murphy pulling the strings. Hangeland imperious. Everyone playing well. Half time began preparing for the inevitable siege.

Fulham still in charge. United bring on Rooney for ineffective Berbatov. Begin to force us back around the hour mark. Shots flying in from all angles. Schwarzer collects everything. Dempsey covering every blade of grass. Etuhu immense. Murphy off with potential achilles. Dacourt fills the gap. Zamora replaced by Kamara. Restricted to long punts down field. Kamara chases everything. Gera on for Dempsey. AJ through on goal. Shot saved. Finds Gera. Overhead volley. GOAL! 2-0! Delierium. Rooney throws away ball. Second yellow. Rooney strops off. United down to 9 and beaten men. Whistle goes. Very Happy.

Forty points. Premier League future confirmed. Up to 8th. Very Happy.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey (Gera 81), Murphy (Dacourt 67), Etuhu, Davies, Johnson, Zamora (Kamara 77).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Stoor, Kallio.
Booked: Pantsil, Dempsey.
Goals: Murphy 18 pen, Gera 87.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea (Tevez 70), Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Ronaldo, Fletcher, Scholes, Park, Giggs, Berbatov (Rooney 46).
Subs Not Used: Foster, Neville, Anderson, Carrick, Fabio Da Silva.
Sent Off: Scholes (18), Rooney (89).
Booked: Evans, Evra, Ronaldo, Rooney.

Att: 25,652

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nostalgia - Fred Callaghan

It's been a while since I posted any of Gordon's nostalgia. This arrived via Rich@CCN the other week who also recently posted this rather excellent piece about baseball and sporting history and vintage Fulham footage.

Article written by Gordon Mills

When Fulham inexplicably and shockingly sold Alan Mullery to Tottenham one March Saturday in 1964, many of us felt much as Bobby Robson did – rumour has it that after the game with Liverpool which Fulham won 1 – 0 thanks to a Reg Stratton goal, and the players heard the news of the transfer in the changing room, Robson had to be physically restrained from barging into the directors’ room and sorting them out. The transfer left a gaping in the Fulham midfield that was partially filled by local St Marks alumnus and self-confessed hard man, Fred Callaghan.

Fred had often been part of our games on the gravel of Hurlingham and South Parks and we had all been proud to name him as friend when he was offered terms at Fulham. We had sometimes been chased off the Richmond Park golf course by him and some other apprentice professionals too.

He had been captain of a very strong Fulham Youth team that included John Dempsey and Rodney Marsh and was an abrasive, tough tackling wing half with, paradoxically, a very cultured left foot. We looked forward to his promotion to the first team with high expectations.

A bunch of us travelled to Aston Villa the following Saturday to witness Fred’s debut in the number 6 shirt and what an inauspicious start he made! It seemed that every time he went near the ball in the first half he fouled someone – and these were unintentional fouls not the usual clattering Fred tackle - and at least four of his “tackles” were so late that he even missed the Villa man in possession. To say that the pace of the old Division 1 was a bit too much for him was a gross understatement. However, he gradually found his feet and actually managed to pass the ball to a fellow white shirt a couple of times in the second half and began to regain his stature after being withered by a few stares from captain J Haynes. Fulham drew the game and so began Fred’s career as Fulham player.

He kept his place in the midfield for a while but his great days came after he switched to left back when Jim Langley moved to QPR. He quickly established himself as a solid defender who made up for a certain lack of quickness on the turn with good positional sense and was ever willing to support the attack with marauding, swashbuckling runs down the wing that usually concluded with a dangerous cross towards Allan Clarke or Steve Earle. He was an excellent partner for George Cohen on the other flank.

He stayed with Fulham through the dreadful relegation years at the end of the sixties and, ironically, was a member of the team when Alan Mullery returned in 1972. Unfortunately, he didn’t feature in the team in 1975 when Fulham reached Wembley.

My recollections of Fred after this are vague – I think he had some association with Brentford and also managed Carshalton and I think he’s working for Fulham in some hospitality capacity now...

NOTE: Gordon's right. Fred is the Matchday Host for the Riverside Restaurant (details here) and also has a small section in the programme.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bolton 1 Fulham 3

What a difference 90 minutes can make. Things were looking particularly grim after Wednesday night. I was staying positive but the apparent loss of Aaron Hughes and an imposing set of fixtures did weigh heavily on my mind. A week ago we were a game away from a Wembley semi-final and on the fringe of European qualification now we were out of the cup and looking nervously at the teams below us.

Last year me and my mate Gibbo had talked about going to this game. We fancied an away trip and thought this looked as good a chance of seeing a win as we were likely to find. We realised we weren't going to be able to make it (work commitments and important birthday parties being our main obstacles) a while ago and on our journey home after the Blackburn loss it seemed pretty unlikely we'd be missing anything special. We did joke that it would be typical that we'd end up missing a goal fest and an away win - but didn't really believe it.

I sat in a Merit Tyre shop just before kick-off and watched Sky Sports News with Jeff Stelling cracking jokes about our away form. They showed a montage of all our goals away from home this season - Seol at the KC Stadium, Clint Dempsey at Portsmouth and Konchesky's January goal of the month - it didn't last very long. Stelling informed us that the previous lowest ever total for away goals was six - suggesting we had no hope of passing even that measly total. I spent a lot of the afternoon avoiding the football. A sneaky peak just before half-time showed us 1-0 up and (according to TiFF) well in control. Andy Johnson had shown some real striker's instinct to chase down Andy O'Brien and take advantage of his dreadful back pass to poke home from six yards. As I was trying to take this all in though Bolton equalised. Kevin Davies being a handful on the edge of our box and steamrolling through our defence to level the score just before the break.

I left it a good 10 minutes after full time before I dared check the score again. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw the result. Simon Davies had restored the lead firing home a rebound after Danny Murphy had hit the crossbar from a tight angle. Diomansey Kamara confirmed the points collecting a neat pass from Dempsey before sending in an acute daisy cutter.

We've put some ghosts to rest here. Put an end to a run of defeats, picked up that first away win and scored enough goals to make sure we won't be holders of an unwanted Premier League record. We're three points away from that important 40 point marker and I'm feeling very happy indeed.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel (Riga 74), Taylor, McCann, Mark Davies (Muamba 68), Gardner, Kevin Davies, Elmander.
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Hunt, Puygrenier, Makukula, Shittu.
Goals: Kevin Davies 45.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson (Nevland 90), Zamora (Kamara 84).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gera, Dacourt, Stoor, Smalling.
Goals: Johnson 42, Davies 56, Kamara 88.

Att: 22,117.

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fulham 1 Blackburn Rovers 2

We caught Blackburn cold scoring after just 90 seconds. Clint Dempsey took down a high through ball and bundled through the defence before poking his shot past former England 'keeper Paul Robinson. Blackburn, who looked awful at times in the first half, kept scrapping and in the end it was their desire to win that gave them the points. Diouf scored after a high ball into the box caused chaos in the Fulham defence. This gave Rovers the boost they needed and we never looked like responding. Five minutes from time Jason Roberts out muscled Tony Kallio (on for an injured Aaron Hughes) and fired home the winner. Fulham are starting to look tired after three weeks of double fixtures and it's times like this when the size of our squad is a concern.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes (Kallio 77), Konchesky, Davies (Nevland 90), Etuhu, Murphy, Gera (Kamara 80), Dempsey, Johnson.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Dacourt, Gray, Stoor.
Booked: Murphy.
Goals: Dempsey 2.

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, Andrews (McCarthy 56), Kerimoglu (Mokoena 82), Warnock, Diouf, Roberts, Pedersen (Dunn 86).
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Khizanishvili, Villanueva, Simpson.
Booked: Diouf.
Goals: Diouf 69, Roberts 85.

Att: 22,259

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

F.A. Cup Quarter Final: Fulham 0 Manchester United 4

Manchester United really are a very good team aren't they? Maybe it was the detachment of watching the game from home on TV but I really didn't feel any of the anguish I'm reading on the Fulham message boards. I thought we played quite well, certainly showed signs of being able to surprise United in the opening twenty minutes. We just came up against the best team in the world in an unforgiving and determined mood.

Alex Ferguson indicted his intent with a strong starting line up and an early effort from Carlos Tevez pulled a good save from Schwarzer and required a clearance from an alert John Paintsil. United looked less confident at the back. Andy Johnson got his foot to a long through ball and directed it without any real venom towards goal. This caught van der Sar out of position and created a moment of comedy as Vidic only just won the race against a very slowly rolling goal bound ball. Still a moment of promise. Zamora (who I thought looked much more positive than he had midweek) sent in a great cross from the right wing which found Dempsey at the far post. The American's header was well directed but just a fraction too high. AJ and Zamora then interchanged passes on the edge of the box but having broken through the defence Bobby Z sliced his shot well wide of the post. Maybe we could get something out of the game?

United won a corner. Wayne Rooney flicked on from the near post and Tevez was left unmolested at the far post to head home the first goal at close range. A soft goal which you couldn't help feeling we could have avoided but a goal none the less and now we had a lot to do. Tevez received the ball in midfield and went on a run. Etuhu did well to get back on goal side and attempt to hold up the Argentine but then fell over. Neither centre back had got close enough to him to stop the shot that curled past Schwarzer's outstretched hand. 2-0 down at half time and we needed a miracle.

Fulham started the second half brightly enough but then a poor clearance from Hangeland was collected by Tevez who set Rooney free. A run, a jink and a powerful shot into the far corner. 3-0 down and game over. Nothing happened of any great interest for about half an hour as the flow of the game was disrupted by a series of substitutions from both sides. Then a loose pass from Gera set Ji-Sung Park free to run at goal and his shot into the far corner completed the rout.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Etuhu, Murphy (Dacourt 57), Dempsey, Zamora (Gera 67), Johnson (Kamara 60).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Stoor, Kallio.
Booked: Pantsil, Dacourt.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea (Eckersley 52), Ferdinand (Evans 46), Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson, Park, Rooney (Welbeck 64), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Foster, Berbatov, Giggs, Scholes.
Goals: Tevez 20, 35, Rooney 50, Park 81.

Att: 24,662

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fulham 0 Hull City 1

If that had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped it half way through the second half and awarded it to Fulham on points. Almost inevitably, after 75 minutes of outplaying the opposition we ran out of ideas and paid the price. With men committed forward we made a mess of retaining the ball then made a mistake at the back and allowed Hull to get a ball across goal which somehow evaded Schwarzer and two defenders leaving Man Utd loanee Manucho to side foot home.

There's a lot I could talk about - How bad is Zamora since he scored those goals? Why is Roy so reluctant to use subs when the game is clearly crying out for them? Why did Hull wear their change kit? - I'll leave them for another day, maybe.

In the reversal of a popular saying, now we can concentrate on the Cup.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Kamara 89).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gera, Dacourt, Stoor, Kallio.
Booked: Hangeland, Etuhu, Davies.

Hull: Duke, Zayatte, Turner, Gardner, Kilbane, Mendy (Garcia 89), Ashbee, Ricketts, Geovanni (Barmby 90), Fagan, Cousin (Manucho 76).
Subs Not Used: Myhill, Hughes, France, Halmosi.
Booked: Geovanni.
Goals: Manucho 90.

Att: 23,051

Position: 10th

Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 (micro post)

An incredible week just keeps getting better as the Whites put in a stoic performance to claim another goalless draw away from home. I'm starting to enjoy these nil-nils as much as home wins, despite having scored a paltry 3 goals on the road we've picked up 7 points.

The Arsenal fans I know were moaning about our lack of ambition but the highlights showed we didn't just defend. Andy Johnson had a great chance to score early on and, whilst we only managed one effort on target to Arsenal's four, we matched them for efforts off target (11 each). The BBC even stated "Fulham deserved (the draw) for a performance full of attacking ambition and dogged defensive resilience". That's four points we've claimed from the Gunners this season and lord knows how long ago we managed that.

The lack of Saturday games ensured that we stretched our lead in Mike Whalley's Gubbometer. We also picked up another point in the inter-London league and I'll try and update that sometime next week.

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna (Eboue 70), Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Arshavin, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Vela (Bendtner 63).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Ramsey, Song Billong, Djourou, Gibbs.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird (Stoor 46), Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey (Gera 88), Johnson, Zamora.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Kamara, Dacourt, Kallio.

Att: 60,102

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)