Quite a fun game in the end, but our relatively easy start of Villa-Wolves-Newcastle-Blackburn hasn’t left us overflowing with points and until given evidence to the contrary we must assume that we’re in for a long, hard season. Manchester City visit next, and that’s frightening. They’re going to hammer us.
Gloomy, perhaps, but again we’ve made a bad side look half-decent, and for all the pressure and bluster, Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal wasn’t genuinely tested. Two points, two goals, four games. We need to improve.
The problem is there aren’t too many hopeful signs. Today’s system saw Murphy and Sidwell sitting behind an attacking trio of Duff, Dempsey and Ruiz, with Zamora as a single focal point. Until the game opened up in the second half (and wouldn’t that have been a nice time for Ruiz to make his first appearance?) Sidwell seemed stifled, Murphy harassed and the forwards somewhat aimless. Time and again the ball would move forward but with no obvious plan in mind. Passing was laboured, movement (again) poor. Several times a Fulham player would look up and see that all available passing lanes were closed off. That doesn’t feel right, not at this level with these players.
Poor Ruiz was like a rabbit in the headlights. He looked nervous from the minute he walked onto the field, had a couple of safe touches but then found the two man pressing from Blackburn hard to deal with. He frequently turned away from one man and straight into another. He tried to counter this by playing safe, but even then he seemed unsure of where in the fluid three he was supposed to be, and – no surprise – disappeared. His time should come, but in retrospect Jol got it wrong today. A 75th minute entry would’ve given him time and space against tiring limbs, rather than a 45 minute horror show he experienced instead.
Ruiz it was who lost the ball for the Blackburn goal. This time he was in an outside left position (again, shouldn’t he have been given one, slightly better defined, role on his debut?) when he lost the ball. The ensuing cross cut out our defence and was crashed home off the cross-bar with a fine left footed shot. (Interesting fact: as Blackburn attacked AJ and colleagues were warming up in front of us. I shouted “AJ” and, bless him, he moved! What a nice fella he is).
Luckily we equalised quite quickly, a Zamora left footer inside the far post. Nice goal, and deserved, even if we were struggling to get into the game.
The second half was good for the spectator, with both teams opening up. An end-to-end game resulted, with Clint Dempsey particularly impressive. Time and again Dempsey drove into Blackburn territory, his best performance for Fulham for ages. He deserved something from the game.
Sadly nobody else in a white shirt was quite on their game. Duff blew hot and cold, some good approach work tempered by Blackburn blocking off his favourite diagonals so he had to keep going down the line. Zamora did okay but looked isolated, and Dembele’s half-time introduction helped but still wasn’t enough given the lack of movement, the poor *timing* of our attacks. Otherwise Stephen Kelly played well, but we needed more from someone in a more forward role. AJ came on and hesitated when in a good position (only he will know why – did a defender clip his boot?), Hangeland headed wide from a rare good corner, and Dempsey and Murphy brought decent saves from Robinson (who wasn’t tested with long shots despite a known weakness against these).
Not immediately clear where we go from here. We’ll need Dickson Etuhu against City, and we’ll need to attack with much more pace and precision. It’s a long season so no need to panic yet, but momentum is not with us, and this could be a problem.