The team news came through on the way to the ground. Cahill and Neville were back in the starting XI along with Seamus. I would have liked to have seen Bily given a start, with Osman moving inside. However, that would show intent; something Moyes doesn?t seem to possess. Gueye, the invisible man, made an appearance on the bench along with its regular warmers.
The game began after a minute's silence for the recent events in Japan; it was impeccably observed, as always. The first 10 mins passed by without much of note, bar a few corners and needless free kicks apiece. Neville seemed to be up for this one, he passed the ball quite well for 15 mins; he then proceeded to go AWOL.
The first noteworthy effort came from that trusty left foot of our beloved left back; flashing a 25-yarder wide, well wide in the end. Not since Sheedy and Hinchcliffe has Goodison seen such a cultured left peg.
Around 25 mins in, we forced a few corners after Cahill and then Saha had shots blocked. Baines swung one in from our left and Saha guided a header towards the far corner. For once, the full back, Salcido, had stayed on the post and the danger was cleared; we were slowly waking up. Surely a goal was coming soon, since Fulham?s record at Goodison is like Europe?s recent Eurovision record; abysmal.
The breakthrough finally came, around 10 mins before the break. Baines and Osman linked up well down the left hand, as they did for the majority of the first 60 mins. Baines feigned the cross and pulled the ball back to Osman. He showed his usual quick feet to waltz past Murphy and lift a lovely cross towards the back stick. Salcido, fresh from his earlier goal-line clearance, seemed to have taken half-time early as he was nowhere to be seen. Coleman accepted the freedom of L4 to steer a well-placed header past Schwarzer and into the bottom left hand corner. Baines hit a free kick into the wall and Dempsey fired over for Fulham and that was pretty much it for the first 45.
Second half began, with both teams unchanged. I was hoping we could get a second early on; I can?t trust us to defend a lead anymore. Rodwell burst forward; I haven?t said that often this season. Etuhu seemed to be trying to get into his shorts and as he reached the edge of the area, Etuhu finally got his man. Free kick, 25 yards out. Baines and the mercurial Frenchman were lining it up.
The angle didn?t seem to favour either player, so I was wondering curiously how this would turn out. I was quite shocked and genuinely puzzled, yet delighted with what followed. Baines laid the ball off to Saha, who ran up and slammed a right footer into the goal. Schwarzer had no chance. The wall seemed flimsy, although I didn?t mind. After the euphoria of the goal died down, it struck me: Saha had hit a pearler, from a set piece, with his wrong foot! With his left, he probably would have hit it over; that sums him up.
Etuhu and Duff then had a couple of token efforts from way out; neither troubled Howard. Coleman burst forward and had a go from 25 yards after a good run. It seemed a fairly routine save, Schwarzer though made sure ESPN had something to use in the credits.
An hour gone and the game had that end-of-season feel to it. Cue 30 mins of nothing football and a welcome 3 points at home? Oh how wrong was I... we folded like a cheap pack of cards. Duff picked the ball up on their right and it was worked into Zamora. He held off a challenge and laid it off to Dempsey, who dispatched a quality strike past Howard. He lost the attentions of Rodwell far too easily in the build up. Having barely been in the game, Fulham now had their tails up.
We seemed to retreat and with that went the team?s collective brain. It is truly amazing how one goal affects your ability to pass a ball and make normal, rational decisions. We retreated and gave the ball away for fun; thankfully, Fulham were lacking the quality to punish us. Our shocking last 30 mins was only hindered by the manager?s bizarre and oh so negative substitutions. Heitinga for Cahill; maybe Moyes was trying for a record number of defenders on the pitch at any one time?
After some good hassling by Heitinga, we forced a corner. Osman whipped in an inviting ball and Jagielka rose, like the proverbial salmon, to guide a header towards the net. Salcido again came to the visitor?s rescue, flinging himself at the ball to prevent a game-clinching third. For all their huff and puff, the closet Fulham came to a point was a Zamora header that lacked power and drifted wide.
We held out and gleefully accepted the 3 points. A promising period, before and after half-time, wasn?t built on. I would also like to see a bit more intent from the manager, given the lack of creative players in midfield. A central pairing of Neville and Rodwell may run all day and try their hardest but they?re never going to get you playing or dictating a game. Osman should be in there for now, since he is probably in the form of his life at the minute; and for the record, I?m one of his doubters.Ratings:
Howard: Solid, came off his line well for a change, but didn?t really have much to do. 6
Hibbert: Put a few good crosses in and defended well, barely got forward second half though. Still looks so awkward in possession. 6
Jagielka: Stood tall towards the end as we crumbled, excellent defensively. Still can?t pass to save his life though. 8
Distin: Quiet game, got on with his job and won all his headers. Is having his best season so far. 7
Baines: Ran, and ran and ran. Put some great crosses in, and is our biggest threat at the moment. 8
Coleman: Attacked well, always looked a threat and took his goal really well. He faded slightly towards the end though. 7
Neville: Promising start, but then disappeared completely. Prone to giving away needless fouls and not picking up runners. 5
Rodwell: Got about the pitch well, made one great tackle. Lost Dempsey for the goal though, still don?t think he is a centre mid. 6
Osman: Playing well, linked up with Baines well and did great for the first goal. He battled well towards the end. Should have been subbed though, he was out on his feet after 70 mins. 7
Cahill: Won his fair share of headers, the game seemed to pass him by in the main though. He seemed to go off injured towards the end and could do with a break; looks exhausted. 6
Saha: kept dropping deep first half; needs to stay up top. Took the goal well and played better after it. Injury looks bad though, hopefully it?s not too serious. 6
Subs: Bily, Heitinga, Beckford: Can?t really judge, not given long enough, any of them.
Moyes: Waited too long to sub and when he did they were far too negative. I know we have injuries, but taking off an attacking midfielder for a centre-back at home is a joke. We have nothing to lose so he should be going for it, not trying to hang on every game. 5
Villa next, god I hate them. We always seem to outplay them, yet never beat them. Hopefully the few internationals we have return unscathed and we can beat the Villa. Maybe this season can end with a good run of results; it still won?t hide away from the drivel we?ve seen this year though.
It might just make that season ticket renewal seem a bit more of a sane idea though.
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1 Posted 20/03/2011 at 09:06:52
I assume this is a type but I quite like it. The idea that all of Europe are terrible in the Eurovision, kind of true.
Good report though a bit unfair to say of Moyes that 'we have nothing to lose'. We could have lost 3 points and then I would be slightly worried about the furious relegation battle going on below us.
2 Posted 20/03/2011 at 10:16:51
Apart from the £750k per league place, you mean.
3 Posted 20/03/2011 at 10:16:49
4 Posted 20/03/2011 at 13:19:56
#2 We're more likely to get up that league with a bit more positive thinking from the manager though surely. Heitinga for Cahill, thats just poor.
#3 I would still have him in midfield over Neville though since he is actually a midfielder and can do something more than point and shout at people. Neville is a good captain but only ever a right back.
5 Posted 20/03/2011 at 13:22:51
Tried the "Kenwright Out" chant ? didn't really take off... perhaps a defeat could have kicked it off.
6 Posted 20/03/2011 at 13:47:23
7 Posted 21/03/2011 at 04:47:39
Each game I have seen with Bily he always keeps pulling himself into the middle of the field, the same with Leon too. The reason is that he is not a natural on the left hand side even though he is a lefty. He just doesn't have the work rate for it. But he does have a great shot and it is insane that he is not playing now.
The same thing with Gueye, why he isn't being handed the Pienaar role, I don't understand. In the Cup he has played there and has two assists. Plus he even scored. He is in my mind a left mifield natural! Problem is Moyes just seems stuck in never-never land with his stubborn usual boring attitude... why don't you try something new for God's sake???????? It won't kill you, I promise!
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