These things are always going to be trickier to write when all I’ve got to go on is 8 minutes of Match of the Day highlights but it would be remiss of me to abandon this project a mere two weeks in. Actually 8 minutes is pretty good coverage for Wigan v Fulham. Mike Whalley is no longer tracking who ends up last on Match of the Day but I’m fairly sure in the five years he did this fixture was the one that appeared most regularly.
There were enough glimpses to suggest the positives from our performance against West Brom had been maintained. Berbatov looked guileful, Duff continued to rampage down the right and the Baird/Sidwell combo looked strong in the middle (to the point of taking down the referee). The standout player for me? Mark Schwarzer. Three top class saves (with his shin when faced one on one with Arouna Kone, at close range from McCarthy then quickly up to put off the follow up and a fingertip touch onto the crossbar from a late header) that kept us in the game and gave us that all important first away win.
We all know how poor our away form has been since joining the Premier League but it’s not really that much worse than 60% of the league. That said, last years’ tally of four wins was our best since 2005 when Chris Coleman was getting the best out of the team that Jean Tigana built. In his pre-match conference, Jol discussed hoping to pick up four or five wins on the road this season, which suggests he realises the need to improve and will be more prepared to give it a go on our travels.
This is our best start to a season since 2002 and, despite none of the “big” clubs playing, it was rather nice to see us in the top four places come the end of Saturday fixtures. David Moyes made the very sensible point in his post match interview that you can’t really judge a team until they’ve played 10 games. Mark Lawrenson concured and then promptly wrote off Swansea & Reading’s chances this season. Our next five games see us face Man City, Aston Villa & Everton at the Cottage, whilst travelling to Southampton & Reading. If we could pick up another 8 or 9 points from that set of fixtures I think we could all be very pleased with our start indeed.
So, in summary, a good away win (that should prevent the pundits from banging on about our form until at least December), a first goal for Rodallega (that should boost his confidence) and a fine goalkeeping display (that should confirm why he’s our number one).