Tag Archives: Fulham

Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn and Fulham

As we drove to White Hart Lane for the QPR game our talk focused upon golf difference. For me we needed to put away Rangers in an effort to try and catch up United, City and Chelsea once we have played (and hopefully won) our game in hand against Everton. G on the other hand felt we should want to do the best we could in that department but winning the games was what it was all about.

G’s right, of course he is, but with Arsenal finding some form and Liverpool likely to have some decent wins at home we could find ourselves sweating a little if we don’t score sufficient goals when we are playing well. Then there is Newcastle who can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment and walk away with another +2 from Stoke.

We met my brother in law in Park Lane and he wanted to see a good performance from Gareth Bale. “It’s about time” he said “as he hasn’t done much recently”. We readily agreed. Despite Rangers improvement both in personnel and performance they had struggled to put away 9 men Chelsea so could they present us with any serious problems. We figured maybe not but following G’s logic they would be rightly ecstatic at that victory.

We all went home delighted, Bale scored two fabulous goals, our performance for most of the game was fabulous and another 3 points to the 3 we had won at Blackburn just deserves for those performances.

But was it enough? At this stage of the season it was but as we’ve come to expect we conceded a goal to give Rangers hope and ended the game clearing it off the line. Our first half was outstanding but as Harry rightly said we could have been 4 or 5 up. We shouldn’t complain – or should we? 

When Martin Jol was starting to turn the cruiseliner that is Tottenham Hotspur around G and I often left the ground thinking “how did we win that?” These days we are much improved upon that but sometimes we don’t reap enough of what we’ve sown in the build up. Sunday was a prime example. Was Adebayor unlucky or wasteful? Certainly Van Der Vaart spent much of the second half trying to thread a pass through into space for him and had one come off he might have added to his tally. Elsewhere though he did miss a couple of sitters.

His quick thinking, however, robbed Paddy Kenny of the ball and allowed us to get it back in front of goal where Bale hit a blazing drive that produced an unbelievable save to keep it out. In essence he was not quite firing on all cylinders but his forward play assisted in producing the first goal and keeping Rangers stretched. 

Kenny made other good saves. Two from Van Der Vaart prevented him opening the scoring in the first couple of minutes and again just after half time. Had one of those gone in the floodgates might have opened – as they might have done for Chelsea in the opening minutes against Arsenal – but it just wasn’t to be.

All our goals were well taken. Bales goals in particular were outstanding with Lennon working inside on both laying a super pass for the powerful cross shot and then making a triangle of short passes before Bale curled a powerful shot into the net. Brilliant goals indeed that sent the crowd into raptures and Van Der Vaart’s shot from Ledley’s deflected shot was also clinical in the extreme. 

As we ate lunch before I left Mac Junior told me that a goal for Rafa would equal or break a record for goals scored in games on the trot. Between courses we identified it to be a Premiership record and a quick look in my (soon to be replaced) complete record 1882 to 1991 showed that a certain Mr Greaves scored in 10 on the trot in 1962-63. Others among you will be able to instantly tell me if that is in fact the record but it seems that the BBC are now following Sky and failing to accept football existed before the Premier League. On that basis Liverpool have hardly any history – mind games from Manchester perhaps but let’s get it right guys.

Biggest praise from the QPR game goes to Scott Parker who had an incredible afternoon particularly in the first half dominance. The guy was a colossus in midfield competing for every ball. Surely Luka is happy he stayed to play alongside him? As you probably recall I  wasn’t that keen thinking about how it would effect Sandro’s position but I have to admit that the young Brazilian must be learning loads from Scott who also now seems to have nicked Pav’s song…

Previously at Blackburn we had picked up another valuable three points from a game which my computer wouldn’t feed me. I’ve talked about the luxury of having both Rafa and Luka in the side when we travel but Rafa once again showed his mettle with two tremendous efforts that demonstrate why Harry is right to play him. 

Jermain Defoe must be disappointed to only get a run out alongside Pav in the Europa League games but you cant argue with the thought process behind it whilst we are winning. Once again we allowed Blackburn back into the game as we did at Newcastle but this time we were able to hold out. Will we be able to continue this trend at Fulham come Sunday? 

Whilst we won at The Cottage last season it has been a stadium of disappointment and this year with Martin Jol at their helm there is a risk that he inspires them to a win and some vindication of his unacceptably handled sacking. Realistically on current form that shouldn’t be possible and whilst Fulham have no travel problems their first team have played a Europa game tonight whilst with the exception of maybe Gallas ours have not. 

That means that it should be the right time to play them. These days we are better in such circumstance and have the players available to make it count. Our issue is whether we can get ahead sufficiently to close down the shop and go Sandro/Parker.

That seems to take us full circle to where I began; goal difference. G has a theory that we will get better at this part of the game as we get more experienced. The quality of the squad has not been this good for ever so maybe one good hiding will set us up for a period. It certainly helped Manchester City after their visit to the Lane.

After Newcastle the next six games all looked winnable. Two down, four to go and if we were to do it we would undoubtedly surprise ourselves but maybe for this team now is the time.       

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No wheels on our wagon! Fulham 4 Tottenham 0

I haven’t been to Craven Cottage and I’m very glad that I did not choose today to change that. Unfortunately for them a strong contingent of Spurs fans made the trip across London and made a better fist of it than the players being extremely vocal throughout the game. 

It was probably all there was to do as we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the worst Spurs display for many months leaving Harry looking very hot under the collar as he chose his steps carefully back across the pitch to issue (hopefully) the rollocking of all rollickings to those gathered in the dressing room. Quite what the problem was is hard to tell but both teams carried on from the last time we met with Fulham getting much better and Spurs getting much worse!

Over confidence? Complacency? The thought of a home draw after coming through this match? The year ending in 1? Whatever it was it gripped them all at the start, none more so than Michael Dawson who firstly played a suicide pass to Alan Hutton before allowing himself to be blocked off in the chase back and then giving away a second penalty and getting himself sent off for tugging a shirt after 14 minutes.

Hutton’s challenge which conceded the first penalty looked unfortunate in real time but he never got any the ball and clipped his man so a fair decision. Quite whether Dawson should have gone for the second is debateable. I felt it harsh but the way he was playing Phil Dowd clearly felt sorry for him and allowed him to sneak off quickly to the Cottage changing rooms. 

But it was not just Dawson who was having a mare. Over the 90 minutes we hardly had an attack and one shot I recall was from a Van Der Vaart free kick near the half way line. Not the right decision though the keeper was a shade of his line but Rafa could only see two men ahead of him and both were short and useless in the air.

Fulham were good – of that there is no doubt but when they got the team sheets they probably felt we can get a “Lancashire performance” out of this lot if we get into them early. The midfield we presented was Lennon on the left, Rafa out right with Pienaar, Sandro and Modric in the centre. Time and time again we feel we can go into these games in all out attack mode but once we get put onto the back foot there is never any answer to it. 

Sparky’s job was easy, “The only real tackler is the boy Sandro and he has no experience of our game.” I know I’ve complained about Jenas on this blog but this year he has looked better and his experience was vital to compete and take the sting out of Murphy and Dempsey in the early stages. So we lost that battle and inside 45 minutes the war. What made it worse was that Sandro was them removed to allow Gallas to come on. 

Let’s understand this. Sandro plays for the defensive midfield role – or that was my understanding – and then gets taken off after 17 minutes. In the past Lennon or Modric would have gone, personally I think it should have been Pienaar. He’s new to the club and it could have been justified. Easy for me to say after the game but I thought he showed little and will only be a squad player as he offers nothing over Bale or the others.

Many will look at the absence of Bale but that wasn’t it. He would have helped as he has been able to assist in back tracking but he would not have got the ball enough to make a difference. Added to that he played in games where we did give away goals for fun before recovering. 

So looking at our team – and squad – what we can see is that it’s OK when things are going well but when things go wrong the personnel are sadly lacking in breaking up play and taking the steam out of the opposition. There are exceptions. Gallas – but he was on the bench, Dawson – who went Hari Kari today and Palacios but he cannot keep it when he’s got it. 

Once again Crouch was called upon to try and resurrect the failures of the first half and Rafa limped off when it was clear it was game over. So it appears we have problems with a day to go in the transfer window. Or do we? Juvenile football says you play your strongest team, win the game and then make changes. Why don’t we do that? 

Lennon’s started right all season so why start left today. Switch by all means but start? Sandro is in his first season so why put him in as he is clearly not ready yet. Why rest Gallas if we want to win the competition and we needed a different strategy up front. When first signed Rafa was arriving in the box and scoring these days he is pressed back against the half way line leaving us with no support in the box.

Bad day at the office? Bloody bad day at the office if truth be told. No new striker on the horizon and only loan deals for those leaving. This was a competition we had a decent chance of winning. Unfortunately we thought we already had or at least for the first 14 minutes.   

Sunday afternoon at the Cottage: Fulham V Tottenham FA Cup preview

With the year ending in 1 all Spurs fans will be hoping for a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the first time of asking but a Fulham side who acquitted themselves extremely well at White Hart Lane earlier this month stand before us on their own turf. Therefore a tough challenge but easier than the normal away fixture at Old Trafford in these early rounds.

We are without Gareth Bale whose back injury whilst not requiring surgery needs further rest so having checked whether Pienaar played in Everton’s third round victory (he didn’t) I would expect him to start out left. As we stand Kranjcar is available to take that position but Werder Bremen have made a bid for his services. Despite having hardly played him at all this season Harry appears not to want to lose his services – apparently Niko does not want to play in Germany either. 

That poses a problem for Spurs. We have a heavy roster of players and need to clear out as well as adding. Already this month Keane did not leave for Birmingham with a question of increased wages being suggested. Keane denies this and Birmingham’s record in the market allows it to be swept away. Now West Ham are prowling and suggest that “no stone will go unturned” in an effort to sign him. That shouldn’t be a problem as we already hold an open door for him but what of the wage demands? Will personal terms be possible to agree? 

With Niko if it’s Germany or the bench the bench appears to be favourite. At least David Bentley wanted to play football when going out on loan.

Last week we were surprised by the Gomes injury and Cudicini stepped in and provided a capable performance. I would expect him to continue for this game as Gomes only returned to training on Friday. 

If we are to make changes on the field for this game right back might be one position. Corluka or Hutton? I would expect Hutton but if Charlie was given the nod it would not be a disaster for us. With Ekotto fit to return at left back it allows for Gallas and Dawson to continue with Bassong dropping back to the bench. 

Earlier in the month Seb had suggested he might be ready to move on but after a discussion with Harry he is once again committed to the cause. As it stands a decent decision, but with Woodgate nearing fitness things might get tough if he makes the 25 man squad for the second half of the season. If he could play I would rather it was for us – maybe from the bench – than for another Premier League outfit.

Palacios has not yet recovered from his injury so that leaves Jenas or Sandro competing for the shirt. I think Jenas is the man for this game with his longstanding experience and fourth rating for midfield passes this season. Sandro will make the bench and may get a chance of the game is secure. 

Lennon and Modric will play their normal roles and Van Der Vaart will support the lead man. Pav is available once more after injury but I expect Defoe to continue with Crouch available from the bench should the change be required. 

Without Zamora Fulham are not the same side but Dempsey is a useful player and Andy Johnson caused us problems as an Everton player so we need to be wary. Last time out they contributed to their downfall with a pantomime own goal but we shouldn’t expect them to bear us similar gifts. Therefore a tough test at Craven Cottage that we can win if we play to our potential. If not I expect a draw and return to the Lane as we did last year before Spurs go through to the fifth round.

My side for the game is: 

                             Cudicini

     Corluka       Gallas       Dawson       Ekotto

Lennon            Jenas           Modric        Pienaar

          Van Der Vaart          Defoe

Prediction: I’m hopeful of a clean sheet and a goal from Defoe.