Weird. An initially dire match turned barmy, with five goals, a sending off (I think) and all kinds of confusion. Last week the Mark Clattenberg (for reasons I have not explored) decided that Famous Player Wayne Rooney’s pre-meditated fore-arm smash against Not Famous Wigan did not merit punishment, and here Clattenberg was again making decisions that seemed to upset the masses.
It all blew up in the dying moments. Damien Duff was tripped in the area (or so Duff thought), and went mad at Clattenberg. There had been several other half shouts (none wholly convincing), and our increasingly sensitive crowd started to give it the “you’re not fit to referee” thing, which may be true but if we do it every week it starts to sound a bit daft. Clattenberg wasn’t having the best of games, but it seemed to me that he had a number of calls to make that could have gone either way, and when that happens there will be some disappointment.
No matter, down Duff went, Clattenberg said no, and we won a corner. Ball in air, whistle, penalty. Goodness, what can that have been for? The trick here (and I haven’t seen replays) is that Clattenberg will obviously be able to find an offence because there always are holds and shoves on corners, but it seemed like a really poor penalty and small wonder Blackburn lost their collective rags. It was the old cricket trick: scream for enough lbws and you’ll get given one eventually, no matter how ‘close’ it actually might be. If there was no clear foul then Clattenberg must simply have lost his nerve.
So there we were, Dempsey gave the ball to Zamora, Zamora drove past Paul Robinson, and we’d won 3-2. How about that?
Previously we’d seen not much of anything, especially passing along the floor. Damien Duff scored first after Etuhu passed up a shooting chance to slot the ball wide, and Duff smashed the ball low and under Robinson. 25,000 afternoon naps were sharply halted. What? Where? A goal? Oh.
Blackburn got one back after Etuhu lost possession (was he fouled?) on the edge of our area, and somehow or other the ball looped into the net. No idea what happened, but the crowd were upset with the Etuhu incident (never mind the fact that Hangeland seemed to have handled beforehand). 1-1 at half-time, at which point Diddy informed us that the Blackburn goal was an own goal (but not who it belonged to). The game had been pretty cagey, with Blackburn adding some curiosity by sending ten players forward for set-pieces, which gave them a decent chance at keeping the ball in our half for a while. We didn’t deal with it all very well, only Etuhu of the non-defensive players seemed to be anything like his best, Duff occasionally lively, Dempsey alright, Dembele getting no space, Murphy struggling a little, and Johnson utterly futile.
The second half was more open, and out of the blue we scored a second, Duff cutting in and slamming home from 20 yards at Robinson’s near post. 2-1. Then 2-2, as Fulham failed to clear and somehow or other the ball lolloped into the net. Rats.
Then Hughes made some bold subs, Kakuta and Zamora on, Murphy and Dembele off, and this made a difference. Zamora plucked goal-kicks out of the air with great skill (previously Samba and co had headed them back without too much bother) and we were making waves. Kakuta looks like a turbo-charged mini-Dembele, and is currently the player I most want to see on the pitch. He looks excellent, thrilling.
So there we are, a game that had everything but nothing. Most importantly, three points that we needed more than maybe we realised.