Watching Fulham away from home can be dispiriting to say the least. You are gatecrashers to an uninvited party, trampling your muddy boots across the carpet and arriving without any booze under your arm. Snog all the available birds, challenge anyone who objects to a fight, rubbish the music selection and maybe rip the gate off its hinges when storming out having relieved yourself in the bushes. That's how you approach an away game on enemy territory!
OK, maybe it's a few years since I did any of the above...except perhaps the last one. Ah yes, I've just described your typical West London student party circa 1971, with perhaps a smidgen of exaggeration. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Was the guilty party Saturday evening the men in white or the manager who prepares the team? As previously blogged the initiative was with Everton from the off, Moyes having been given clear indication 48 hours before the match how we would set up. Distin could have played in his carpet slippers. With Gudjohnson having gone public weeks ago with his desire to land a permanent move, why not suggest in the press call you might be 'going with more height in attack' to vary our attacking options? That Fulham were going to 'shake things up' to break their dismal record on the road, and at this venue. Psychological mind games maybe, but why not try any trick in the book?
What sort of bench was that to exclude Pantsil and Gera? Unless they had knocks, and I've found no evidence to suggest that, Kelly should never be above these two stalwarts in the pecking order. Baird endured a torrid first-half. He's entitled to have an off day. Having Pantsil in reserve would have been the perfect option. John thrives in pressure games, his three own goals this season, calamitous and unfortunate, should not mask his generally solid displays over time. Gera for Dembele from the start would have given us a different rhythm - other posters are now picking up on something I posted last month, Dembele needs to rediscover his mojo in the reserves. Since the Spurs cup tie he has looked ordinary and blunt up front.
The midfield was again woeful. Too deep, missed tackles all afternoon, and conceding two very poor goals. Yes, our venerable now 34 year-old captain was responsible for both, compounded by Etuhu's soft foul leading to Saha's free kick. Do players actually watch the kicker's set up? I knew exactly where that free-kick was going. Saha even stepped up to the ball and flattened the turf for his standing left-leg. Having done that, and with the shape of his run, you knew it had to be arrowed into the near, not far post. What was the wall doing? Through it went, Schwarzer unsighted.
Charlton went out of the Prem when relying on Matt Holland for one season too many, Fulham will go the same way if sentiment gets in the way of accepting our captain's days are now well and truly numbered. Much as I'm willing him to come good, even the motivation of no doubt wanting to show Everton fans what he can still do, failed to lift AJ to his previous deadly heights. Yes, people say he's not getting the service, and that's a valid point. But come on, since he returned in October, where are the goals? I'm sorry but this summer next stop for AJ, coming up to 30, has to be one of the bigger sides in the Championship, one of the relegated three (WBA would be an obvious fit) or one of the promoted three (in tandem with Heidar at QPR might give him a new lease of life). AJ's replacement will hopefully be ready by next autumn - he's currently completing his apprenticeship on loan at Bournemouth. Yes, you know who I mean.
And talking of strikers...Bobby had to be on for the start of the 2nd half. What was Hughes thinking of not to have made the switch in the interval? Even the gaffer had to come out and admit we had been poor in the first 45. So BZ lumbers on when the game is lost at 0-2, sets up Clint for a terrific goal with his first meaningful touch - congrats to Demps for that 10th league goal of the campaign - and then for the last 15 minutes Everton get nervy and we're in with a sniff of a point. If the medical staff say Bobby can't physically handle 90 minutes, I don't care! Stick him out there for nuisance value alone and to tie up two defenders. He doesn't even have to break sweat as far as I'm concerned, anything's better than what we're stuck with at present.
Wanna know why Blackpool on the road this season have been so hard to handle? From one week to the next you never quite know what Holloway's going to do. Refreshing, unpredictable, aggressive. Compare their away points tally to ours. They've done it by being bold and willing to take the game to the opposition - and they don't care if it's Man United or Wigan. By golly, our game against them in April's going to be a humdinger. Care to predict the score anyone?
I really hope Blackpool survive. But then of course we don't want it to be at Fulham's expense. We've another two weeks to get it right before our date with Holloway's warriors. It's a massive relegation scrap now pure and simple after our failure to take any points at the weekend. We must pray that Sidwell is back on schedule and fit for this one, otherwise Adam may play us off the park on his own (my Player of the Season vote, though of course he won't get it).
Let's finish on a bright note by congratulating Clint on his landmark goal. It was a beauty and we all saw what it meant to him, even in a losing cause. If any Bayern Munich representatives were in Liverpool at the weekend I bet that short list's been hurriedly re-drafted...
Come on Fulham, let's see a reaction to this latest road trip surrender with a strong final two months of the season. As the chairman said after the Man City debacle in November, relegation is NOT an option.
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