I think we should petition the F.A. to have all Fulham v Chelsea games to be played at 8:00 on a Bank Holiday from now on. Keegan once remarked that the atmosphere at Craven Cottage under floodlights could be a bit special and combined with a day off and the visit of our nearest neighbours this made for an electric atmosphere.
1. Even at 1-0 down, with our efforts to score looking increasingly unlikely and time slipping away, I felt it had been a cracking game. Though the subsequent stats slightly disprove this, I thought we’d dominated possession and certainly looked like the most likely winners. When the equalizer finally arrived it was almost as good as a winner, the ground united in joy, the reduced Chelsea contingent silent.
2. DEMPSEY DEMPSEY DEMPSEY! Clint never fails to impress does he? Five years on and he just keeps getting better. If the big clubs come calling this summer it will be a sad day for our club but who could argue he hasn’t given us more than we could possibly have hoped for. A terrific player who is finally getting the plaudits he deserves. That said I really hope that we get to see him claim a testimonial in another 5 years time. How many players are likely to achieve that these days?
3. The Penalty & Lampard. I’ve still not seen a replay of the penalty but at the time (from just behind the incident) I thought it was Stephen Kelly’s rash challenge that had caused the offending contact. Difficult to know how great a connection he made but mates who have seem it on TV suggest it was dubious at best. Lampard’s reaction after scoring suggests that our humorous jibes about him being porky are actually having a bit of an effect. What really annoys me is that celebrating the way he did in front of the home fans did not draw an automatic yellow card. Players taking their shirts off or celebrating too wildly with their own fans get a card every time yet a player rubbing it in doesn’t? How can that be right. Either way, we got our own back on the night and I reckon we’ve got under the skin of fat Frank which should make his next visit just as fun.
4. Formations. Whilst I’ve moaned previously about our inconsistency this season it has been nice to see Marten Jol comfortable changing formations and tactics to suit available personnel and opposition. With Pogrebnyak, Ruiz and Johnson all injured our options up front were limited and the switch to a 5 man midfield almost inevitable. The central triangle of Murphy, Diarra & Dembele worked wonderfully. I think Diarra had his best game yet and surely this was in part thanks to the extra cover Murphy & Dembele provided. In fact it seemed whoever pushed forward could rely on at least one of the other two to hold back and provide that much needed cushion of safety if we lost the ball. It seems there’s always a surprise inclusion in our team against Chelsea and this time round it was the return of Karim Frei. Interesting that after Kacaniklic had so impressed against Norwich & Bolton he wasn’t chosen for this game. Perhaps this was just done to keeping the team fresh but I also wondered if, with only Dempsey up front, Jol wanted Frei’s ability to hold onto the ball over Kacaniklic’s ability to put in a cross. Whatever the reason, it certainly worked and Frei deserved his man of the match award.
5. Good things followed Swansea. My friend Mark made an interesting point that the performance against Swansea may have worked in our favour. If nothing else it has seen the return of Aaron Hughes to central defence and (I may be biased regarding this) I think this has made us more solid again at the back. Hughes was excellent on the night and Hangeland looks more confident with his old comrade alongside. I shouldn’t get carried away of course but we seem to have gained a little boost with the changes in personnel and I’m feeling positive for the last five games of the campaign. Onwards and upwards.