Fulham 0-1 Bolton

Bah.  Never really looked like winning.   Never mind parking the bus, Bolton parked an armoured tank in front of their goal and we had no way round, through or over it.

The match’s big moment was Ivan Klasnic’s goal, a sloppy pass from Gera eventually leading to a sloppy clearance from Baird, and next thing we knew Klasnic had volleyed home (just as he had a couple of years ago) from around the penalty spot.  Soft goal really, but entirely in keeping with the way the first half had gone.   We couldn’t keep the ball (Bolton pressed with great energy), couldn’t build any worthwhile attacks, and most importantly, couldn’t link midfield and attack.   Johnson scurried as he always does but Dembele was entirely shut out of the game.

And not always reasonably.  Word is clearly getting round about our man’s quality, and Bolton took it upon themselves to shut him out by fair means or foul.  It was remeniscent of Wolves earlier in the season, death by 1000 cuts (from Wikipedia:  “to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time”  –  indeed).   Bolton pushed, pulled, blocked and tugged, and our man was not a factor.  Eventually the crowd tired of this and told referee Atwell what they thought of him.  This felt entirely fair; you have to crack down on this nonsense or it just encourages them.   Murphy accompanied Atwell back across the pitch at half-time, arms wide in the French “eh?” style.

The second half seemed a bit better.  Dembele got much more of the ball, and was soon dribbling like a speed skater, whizzing past people magnificently.   But Bolton kept at it and their keeper was never really bothered.   On came Bobby Zamora, and instantly we looked better.   The long dumps over the top that Johnson had so struggled with were now legitimate passes, Zamora finally giving Cahill and Wheater a taste of their own medicine.    The attacks flowed now, but we seemed to spend the last twenty minutes taking corners that never came to anything.    It was extremely frustrating.

It was a kind enough draw, but credit Bolton for a fine performance.  Atwell helped by letting the physical side of the Bolton game carry on too long, but Bolton can play too:  Wheater and Cahill, Muamba and Holden, Davies and Klasnic.   Fine partnerships up the middle, and it’s probably fair to say that these six outplayed their opponents for most of the game.

A bad day at the office then.  Great to see Zamora back, nice to see Salcido finding form, too, but it will be interesting to see if we can adapt to the way teams are starting to play against us:  harrass Murphy, hammer Dembele, stop most of our creativity.    Sidwell again looked promising, but Johnson’s pot seems to have been moved off the cooker and their are suspicions Dempsey’s play outside the penalty area has been sub-par (by his standards) for a while.    The glass is half-full, but we’ll need to do better than this to stay away from trouble.

20 thoughts on “Fulham 0-1 Bolton

  1. I’m not sure I’d have found Sidwell’s performance promising had that been my first sight, but otherwise agree entirely, including that Bolton deserved their win, with the referring insufficient excuse.

    Bobby’s return was the only highlight, but, as you say, a big one. Zolly looks a busted flush, and his place on the bench deserves to be in doubt if some fitness recoveries occur.

  2. Is it Gentleman Jim who does the commentary on the Fulham website? I was listening to him going apoplectic about the linesman and refs today.
    Absolutely brilliant! – it was like standing next to someone on the terraces. His view was that he should have booked one of the Bolton players early on – as it was they were allowed to keep shirt-tugging, time-wasting and generally disrupting Fulham’s play unfairly.
    Shame about the result – I was going to bet on us for the cup, so at least I have saved that money.

  3. Hopefully Zamora provides what this team needs. Johnson is continually making terrific runs, but seems to be lacking that killer final touch. As much as it pains me to admit it, I agree about Dempsey’s midfield play. He does well in the box, and usually does well when he’s back defending, but he’s lacked a consistent, creative passing game for quite some time now. I don’t believe this is a permanent thing, but I am starting to tap my foot.

    Frustrating game, but you have to respect how they never gave up.

  4. Rich, You must have been watching a different game from me! I thought Salicdo was again a weak link. His positional play is poor to say the least, his heading is awful (did you not notice in the second half Bolton targeted this weakness)

    1. I’m on the fence here. Agree with Rich that Salcido has looked more confident, especially going forward, but he still gets beat way too easily, and as you said Jeff, his positional sense leaves a lot to be desired. I much prefer Baird’s balance. I think I’d prefer Pantsil/Hughes/Hangeland/Baird. Maybe Hughes is just giving Salcido a more extended look because he’s already made a decision with Pantsil.

      1. Agree – I want Salcido to do well but i don’t think his defensive play is very good and in fact his forward game isn’t living up to the initial couple of games. What about Kelly RB & Baird LB?
        As for the game (watched on TV in Sydney) very frustrating everybody gave a 6/10 performance except Gera who was a 5. Booby looked good for his first game back. Perhaps he’ll start up front next game?

  5. Ugh. I just don’t know.

    This match, as I wrote in a prior post, was existential for me and how I consume this sport. Only in soccer can the home team exponentially out-shoot their opponents, out-corner, out-possess, out-everything, and still came away with not only zero goals, but also the end of their season (or cup run).

    Full credit is due to Bolton who played superbly. But don’t tell me we didn’t deserve a replay.

    Maybe it’s the yank in me, but days like these — thankfully sans officiating — honestly call into question why I watch and follow this game when there are more “just” sports I can pay attention to.

    Ugh. I just don’t know.

    1. Didn’t seem to me that we particularly deserved a replay, sorry, when (as Rich says) we lost all the key battles down the centre, while barely operating on the flanks, and only `out-shot’ Bolton in the most theoretical sense. Our notional total of shots on target were mostly tame efforts, and few of our set-pieces threatened danger, while they scored the only goal and called for the two most testing saves. It was a close match of course, and had Dembele scored early on it might have turned out differently, but as it transpired they did enough to shade it and we simply didn’t.

      1. I’m concerned about these midfield battles. Right now, other teams are smothering Murphy, often leaving us to run the game through Sidwell or Dempsey or Duff. (Gera’s passing was terrible today; he’s doesn’t seem to be the solution.) All of these players are solid, but distribution isn’t their strength. We need an Iniesta for Murphy’s Xavi, so if the other team focuses on Murphy, we can still move the ball upfield. As a Yank, I’d love to see that person be Michael Bradley.

      2. We lost the key battles up the middle didn’t operate on the flanks, sure, but neither did Bolton — nor did they really offer much positive material going forward as our forecheck (especially Gera, randomly) was pretty good.

        And when Rich says we “couldn’t build any worthwhile attacks, and most importantly, couldn’t link midfield and attack.” I’d argue that, despite the odd game here or there, we haven’t been doing that all season.

        Whenever Fulham lose I normally throw my hands up and accept the defeat — as Fulham fans we have to if we are to stay sane. But today just rubbed me the wrong way.

        1. I disagree with the assertion that we lost key battles in the midfield (in the second half). I also disagree with the assertion that we didn’t play well enough to deserve a reply in some sense. In the second half, we dominated possession, showed some creative sparks and nearly equalized on several occasions. Remember when Zamora broke through and had a one on one with hte keeper? His final touch failed him and their keeper did very well to come off his line, but there were other close calls like this all through the second half and all of them were n front of Bolton’s goal, not ours. No question the ref influenced the game. Even in the 89th minute Holden (of all people — and as a Yank I have to admit I wasn’t entirely disappointed to see him play like this) yanked Dempsey by the jersey

          1. but how many difficult saves did their keeper have to make? None?

            Schwarzer was beaten once and made a couple of extra good saves. We blustered but did we really trouble them?

            1. …and those Schwarzer saves were both in the second half, in spite of our majority of possession. It was also in the second half that only a last-ditch Baird interception prevented an open goal.

  6. Frustrating. I dont think we ever really got going. Positive is seeing Zamora again.

    What I dont get is the praising of Bolton. Yes, they defended well, but like Newcastle before them completely ruined the game as a spectacle. I cannot praise that at all, since Fulham are not that kind of team. I thought Owen Coyle was Arsene Wenger mrk II, but he appears to be another media suck-up hype merchant.

    I dont usually like to moan about the ref (he says before opening a rant), but the lack of cards for shirt pulling was stupid. There were at least three occasions where ther were obvious shirt pulls that I could see from the back of the Hammersmith end. By the book they are yellows yet none got given. Had Bolton gotten the yellows they deserved, then they would not have been able to shut us down so effectively.

    Oh well, our home record over the last 5 now reads 3-0 2-0 1-0 0-0 0-1. Rather predictable. Hopefully Mark can get them fired up for Man City away next week!

  7. Putting Atwell’s typical poor performance aside, we never seemed to get things in gear. Even when we were pushing for an equalizer, we never seemed to trouble them too much.

    For me, Gera has never looked good on the wings during his entire Fulham career. He likes to come inside which puts him in the spaces that Dempsey and Dembele also like to work. I would have liked to see Davies instead, it would have been a much better mix and I think that he would have given Alonso fits.

    1. An available Duff and/or Davies would undoubtedly have featured and quite probably made a difference, as you say. Your Gera point is also true, but the upshot, with Zamora and Gujohnsen now in the frame, plus the Chelsea youngster, is that he’ll now be lucky to make the bench. This season he’s done very little, truth to tell.

  8. Think we really missed Duff. This was a typical game where a few quick, incisive Duff runs, cut-ins and ground grubbing shots, could have turned defeat into victory. Yes, Atwell should have had the yellow card out early for the shirt tugging, which was clearly a premeditated tactic. Great to see Bobby back and looking like he’s not far from his old, terrorising self. Rather a straight defeat than a replay and defeat.

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