There are signs of a new Fulham emerging. Mark Hughes won’t want to change too much too soon, but a few clever tweaks seem to have added something and today we were unfortunate not to beat a decent Bolton side.
The first half was quite even, Bolton perhaps shading it. David Stockdale, playing in place of the suspiciously injured Mark Schwarzer, had a bit to do and did most of it well: a superb full-stretch save from Martin Petrov was a highlight, not least because he caught the ball, which ‘keepers don’t tend to do these days. He also made some authoritative claims and some booming clearances.
Our best moment came after half an hour when England’s Bobby Zamora slipped clear in the inside left channel 40 yards from goal. He was too far out to go all the way, but saw Jakalaainan off his line and clipped a terrific shot over the panicked keeper but onto the roof of the net. It would have been a fine goal.
The second half initially saw more of the same, although Bolton nearly scored when Johann Elmander escaped Hangeland’s marking and smashed a shot towards goal, Stockdale saving again. Then Elmander broke through again, and Stockdale saved again. Next Stuart Holden hit the outside of our post with a skidding drive. We weren’t under pressure or anything, but the momentum was against us.
It was starting to feel a bit Chris Coleman-esque, but Hughes made a fine switch that changed the game: Zoltan Gera had played reasonably well but had been largely contained, so Clint Dempsey was brought on for the last 20 minutes. Suddenly it was all Fulham. Dempsey revelled in his “10” role, and based on the theory that it’s better to narrowly fail to make five killer passes than to not attempt them in the first place, he was almost excellent, a slightly heavy touch letting him down when it mattered. Otherwise a snap shot from the right hit with trademark power brought a good save from Jaskalaainen, and some generally lively work between the lines and all across the pitch meant that Bolton were suddenly confused and in trouble.
We spied Etuhu in the area a few times, Aaron Hughes had an attempt on goal, but despite these strange occurences there was no way through. 0-0 isn’t a bad return for a Northern away game, and if we try to attack like this in future it seems certain that we’ll do okay.
So far, so good.