Coast is clear

The next two games are effectively a mini-tournament. We have been drawn against Birmingham and then Portsmouth. If we win those two matches we win the mini-tournament, if we don’t we’re knocked out. Ordinarily these two wins would seem impossible for Fulham 07/08, but this is not an ordinary situation. Anything really can happen now. The old footballing cliche about taking a game at a time could not be more relevant: beat Birmingham and it’s a one-off battle on the South coast.

We can only hope that the Craven Cottage crowd is in good humour on Saturday. As a group we seem to have become spoilt, quick to voice displeasure at anything that is not perfect, or anyone who doesn’t appear to have the sufficient fire in his belly on that day. After the Liverpool defeat a number of fans in the Johnny Haynes Stand shouted at the departing Roy Hodgson as if the manager had just insulted their nearest and dearest. Such venom, such hate. This sort of thing transmits itself to the pitch. Had we been 2-0 down at home to Man City the crowd would have jeered the players off, would have muttered, stopped shouting, and flatlined towards 90 minutes. There would presumably have been no comeback.

So we must hope for an early goal to settle everyone’s nerves. The other helpful thing is that the crowd ought to be running out of scapegoats. A feature of the early part of the season was watching Chris Baird’s game fall apart as the crowd seized on his every lapse. He would start solidly enough, misplace a pass (as everyone does), and unravel from there. Which is not to defend Baird, but to suggest that he wasn’t helped very much either.

Danny Murphy remains on a short leash among fans in Johnny Haynes, but should have done enough by now to get some leeway. If he missed a penalty at City, at least he had the composure to put the ball back where it should have gone in the first place. And his slide rule pass to set up Kamara’s winner was an exquisite illustration of the damage that vision, technique and timing can do to tired defences. It was a beatiful pass and one that Kamara did justice to with a thrashing, joyous finish.

Kamara… another who has been berated this season. But there have been some goals, some very good goals, and he has also been quite unfortunate on occasion. At least two disallowed, a shot at Villa that hit the very inside of a post, and some interesting, scuttling runs that have led to important free-kicks (I’m thinking of Blackburn at home in particular here). Not everyone’s cup of tea, but another player who may be benefitting from our new manager’s insistance on passing the football and from a more clearcut role in the team (is he a winger, is he a forward?). We have small players, it makes sense to keep the ball on the deck. Several of the squad are benefitting from this.

Things seem to be coming together. At this point Hodgson seems to know his best team, and would be wise to stick with it. Changes could very reasonably be made, but the Kamara and Nevland partnership would seem most effective in breaking down a tiring defence late on, rather than doing the spade work when the defence is packed, committed and unbroken. McBride and Healy are capable of making things happen too and deserve the chance to play.

Otherwise me must hope for more good fortune and no more injuries. It’s doable now. The good thing about running out of games is that the task seems less daunting. Over five matches anything can go wrong, the series is too big to think about. Two is different: win one, win the next one, job done.

15 thoughts on “Coast is clear

  1. HatterDon

    Thanks for the analysis. It really is a two-match tourney now, isn’t it?

    I appreciate also the comments about the fans dogging the players — especially the conjecture that we might have had an easier job coming back against Citeh away rather than at the Cottage. I know that from the television and radio, it seems as if the lads are more strongly and unanimously supported on the road by the “precious few.” Although having voice my dispair at Murphy from time to time, I have also been more than a little upset at the vituperation dumped on Baird, Steve Davis, even Simon Davies from time to time and, of course, poor old Zat Knight . Players have limitations; screaming at them won’t eliminate them.

    In any event, we’re all hoping to make the last Saturday as meaningful for those of us at the bottom as for the two sides at the top.

    Reply
  2. Lighthouse

    Saturday still pointed out our defensive problems. The second goal where nobody could cover one player running into the area has been a feature when Bullard AND Murphy take up the central midfield roles. We need cover in that area. Murphy is the weakest link and while he has good points his bad points outweigh them.

    The same team will play but how I pray we will not suffer too much from the awful lack of cover for our already nervous defence.

    Reply
  3. weltmeisterclaude Post author

    The midfield fragility will be more of a concern against Portsmouth (who bullied us easily at home), but by then it’ll be our cup final (and theirs next week) so you never know.

    It’s not that Murphy’s bad points outweigh the good, more that Roy’s gambling on a system that needs a ballwinner, but playing without a ballwinner. Dunno, what can you do? Leon Andreasen wouldn’t have seen that pass.

    Reply
  4. Kemosabe

    Without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, we are not – sadly – masters of our own destiny to the extent that you seem to imply.

    We have 30 points, Bolton and Reading both have 33. If these two teams get 4 points or more from their two remaining games, we cannot catch them and we go down. Those remaining games are: for Bolton – Sunderland (H) and Chelsea (A); and for Reading – Spurs (H) and Derby (A).

    Bolton First. Assuming that Chelsea are still in the running for the title, we should assume that they will take their final game against Bolton seriously. If, however,they drop points against Newcastle and/or make the CL Final (neither an impossibility), then they may well rest players against Bolton. As for Bolton’s game against Sunderland, Sunderland have a worse record than we do away from home (W2 D3 L13), so we cannot rely on an away win – a draw may be the best we can hope for – at which point we have to hope that Chelsea turn up looking to get points on the final day. If Bolton win against Sunderland, their superior goal difference (+5 on us currently) will keep them up ahead of us unless (a) they get a tonking from Chelsea (not really their style) and (b) we win our two remaining games by handsome margins (again unlikely)

    Now Reading. We should assume that they will win their game against Derby (who have ONE win all season) as Reading will clearly have an incentive. A draw is probably the best that we can hope for, but unlikely. In which case, we will be relying on Spurs to beat Reading the week before to limit Reading to 33 points. Spurs away form is about as good as ours (W2 D8 L8) while Reading have been OK at home (W8 D2 L8). This would suggest that Reading may well actually get to 39 points.

    If Spurs *do* beat Reading, then it’s still possible for Reading to stay up at our expense if they beat Derby by a large enough margin. Although their goal difference is -3 on ours (and would be -5 assuming we beat Birmingham by a goal and they lose to Spurs by a goal), if they beat Derby 6-0 then we would be tied on GD and we would go down on Goals Scored. And before you say that a 6-0 win is impossible, cast your minds back to our game against Norwich a couple of seasons back… Derby have shipped 6 goals five times this season already and twice this month (Arsenal, Villa, Chelsea, Liverpool); West Ham and Arsenal (again) have put five past them.

    And of course, we still have to win against Birmingham and Portsmouth….

    Sadly, while our away wins have been tremendously good for morale, I think that the bookies are right when they still have us as odds-on to go down. I fear that we will live to regret our failure to hold our late lead away at Derby.

    Reply
  5. weltmeisterclaude Post author

    Yep. Can’t argue with that. For us the job is to win two games. That’s all we can do now. The most realistic outcome for us is either 2 or 3 points, which wouldn’t do it anyway. But owing to the high pressure situation, weird things can happen. Derby could even have a win ‘for the road’. It’ll be fun to see things play out.

    Reply
  6. Jason Gatties

    The guys on “Fox Football Fone In” (a show here in the States) have said all season that Fulham were going down. Every week…Fulham is going down…

    Until last night…

    Both had us staying up.

    Not sure what to think. They’ve dogged us all season and now they feel Fulham will stay up? Hahaha…I’d rather them be against us still. They may have jinxed us!!!

    Reply
  7. HatterDon

    Jason, those guys have had Fulham being relegation certainties for the last three seasons.

    But to Kemosabe’s points: Reading are having the devil’s own time scoring goals. They really haven’t been able to mount a threat. In that they’re very like we were from February-April 2007. Their forwards can’t strike [and they don't have Bocanegra for set pieces]. While Spurs are Jeckyll and Hyde at the best of times, they can’t STOP scoring goals. I think this is a bad combo for Reading. Similarly, I expect Derby to do a job on them as well. They carved out several chances yesterday. Two may not have been enough for Arsenal, but it will be enough for Reading.

    The only good thing to come out of Chelsea’s win on Saturday is that the Bolton match will still be one they’ll have to win if they want to stay up. I also think that the resurgent Sunderland attack will cause them problems.

    Of course, I’m notoriously full of crap, so what do I know?

    Still like the double-elimination tourney aspect. Who’d have thought we could be realistically looking at 12 points out of our last five matches with 9 of them on the road?

    Oh, and evidently, we’ve cost Sven-Goren his job at Citeh.

    Reply
  8. HatterDon

    Jason, those guys have had Fulham being relegation certainties for the last three seasons.

    But to Kemosabe’s points: Reading are having the devil’s own time scoring goals. They really haven’t been able to mount a threat. In that they’re very like we were from February-April 2007. Their forwards can’t strike [and they don't have Bocanegra for set pieces]. While Spurs are Jeckyll and Hyde at the best of times, they can’t STOP scoring goals. I think this is a bad combo for Reading. Similarly, I expect Derby to do a job on them as well. They carved out several chances yesterday. Two may not have been enough for Arsenal, but it will be enough for Reading.

    The only good thing to come out of Chelsea’s win on Saturday is that the Bolton match will still be one they’ll have to win if they want to stay up. I also think that the resurgent Sunderland attack will cause them problems.

    Of course, I’m notoriously full of crap, so what do I know?

    Still like the double-elimination tourney aspect. Who’d have thought we could be realistically looking at 12 points out of our last five matches with 9 of them on the road?

    Oh, and evidently, we’ve cost Sven-Goren his job at Citeh.

    Reply
  9. BC

    Instead of accepting relegation as a foregone conclusion, I’m glad the boys have decided to fight until the very end. The last 2 matches will be very exciting to watch. If we go down, which I believe is quite likely, at least we’ll have gone down (cue Bon Jovi) in a blaze of glory.

    Reply
  10. George H.

    Listen, all we need right now is three pts on Sat. Anything else that happens or doesn’t happen does not mean a thing w/o the win.

    It’s great to think about all of the permutations (what else are we gonna do on a Tues?), but it’s really pointless, especially when you factor in what effect the pressure of relegation has on clubs (as Rich has correctly pointed out). That was one crazy day two seasons ago when West Brom made their escape. They were dead and buried, but then Palace conceded late and went down instead.

    All we can do is win on Sat and hope for the best in the other matches. Hopefully, the atmosphere at the Cottage is very loud and supportive on Sat. The fans have to be fearless in this situation as any apprehension in the stands will be felt on the pitch.

    Reply
  11. HatterDon

    and, of course, I meant “if Chelsea want to have a shot at the title” NOT “if they want to stay up.”

    Reply
  12. Martin

    Sometimes you just get a sense of a team on the slide – and Reading really look like that at the moment. Their season is almost mirroring Fulham’s last season, complete with requisite 90 minutes of misery for a 0-0 at Wigan. Unfortunately in their penultimate game they are facing a Spurs side good at scoring, with players potentially playing for their future. Barring a change in both fortune and performance, it is hard to see Reading getting the win, though Spurs have a tendency themselves to be occasionally dreadful (Brum away a case in point). All the same, I think Reading will definately go, its just a case of whether Fulham can bag the required points to get above Brum. Lets hope so!

    Reply
  13. Toby

    ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. I think that we have prooved this. So any discussion of the likelihood of this or that is stoopid talk. Support and positivity is what is important.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s