Following a poor game against Stoke and a disappointing result against Them I was starting to wonder if our season was going to peter out. This has been a truly great season though, and Fulham, as they have managed to do so often this campaign, returned with a performance full of skill and fight and perseverance to take all three points against a very dangerous Villa side.
A bright start saw both teams have chances, Agbonlahor collected a header from John Carew but screwed his shot wide and Nevland reacted quickly to a blocked Kamara shot but sent his header over the bar. We didn't have to wait long for a goal though. Dempsey did good work in a tight space and fed a ball towards Kamara who took a tumble when well placed to score thanks to a push in the back from James Milner. Murphy's record from the spot was maintained as he coolly slotted past Friedal who guessed correctly but couldn't prevent it going in. Villa were full of pace though and a typical counter attack saw a loose cross from the right flank evade several Fulham defenders before finding Ashley Young in space to fire home the equalizer.
The game seemed to be tightly balanced, both sides showing the ability to score more goals. Then, with the second half only 27 seconds old, and many of us still settling into our seats, Joe Kamara woke us all up with a smart shot from the edge of the box that found its laser guided way into the far corner. Fulham played some great football. Crisp passing, good movement, everyone knew their role and everyone played their part. It's a joy to watch. Villa are a very good side. Carew looked troublesome up front (though Hangeland was immense and Hughes, as ever, mopped up everything else) and Ashley Young caused Paintsil a few headaches in the 1st half (though oddly switch to the opposite wing in the 2nd half where he seemed less involved). Their main problem was they didn't see much of the ball. Fulham were really careful with possession and looked comfortable and assured on the ball.
The game was effectively ended on the hour mark. Hangeland won the aerial battle to head down ferociously and Kamara was perfectly placed to audaciously backheel the ball between Freidal's legs. Villa threw the dice by taking off both full-backs and replacing them with Emile Heskey and Nigel Reo-Coker. It didn't work. Fulham comfortably saw out the game and the home crowd had time to exult the virtues of Roy Hodgson. A cry of "There's only one Roy Hodgson" was extended as Hodgson kept a close eye on the action before acknowledging our cheers. This was followed by an emotional "Stand up for Roy Hodgson" that saw the whole ground rise as one to give our master manager a standing ovation. Marvellous moments. We saw out the last ten minutes with a series of subs that gave us a chance to applaud our hard working heroes. Nevland off for Zamora, Dempsey off for Julian Gray and Etuhu off for Dacourt. All three players had worked their socks off for the cause.
We've reached 50 points and are back up to seventh. Europe is a tantalising proposition, but either way it's been an incredible turn around in fortune from this time last year.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Gera, Murphy, Etuhu (Dacourt 89), Dempsey (Gray 85), Kamara, Nevland (Zamora 83).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Baird, Smalling.
Goals: Murphy 6 pen, Kamara 46, 60.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young (Heskey 64), Knight, Davies, Shorey (Reo-Coker 64), Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Gardner, Clark.
Goals: Ashley Young 14.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)