Well, a win at last.
One of those games that could have gone either way but which probably went the right way. Fulham scraped it 1-0 but had the ball in the net twice beforehand, both for quite tight offside decisions, so this felt like 3 points well earned.
1 – how amazing is it to have young players involved? It’s a great way for the manager to buy some goodwill. Cauley Woodrow gave everything and his ‘goal’ showed great awareness, balance and determination, slightly Linekeresque in type. He wanted to be involved, wasn’t intimidated by the reputations of those around him, and can be proud of what he did. Just having him there and playing like that seems to give everyone a lift.
2 – except the expensive strikers he was picked in place of. Presumably Magath wanted a skillset and decided Woodrow was his best option, but how should the likes of Darren Bent (yes I’m singling him out) feel watching a young kid playing so well? Ashamed.
3 – lost in all the excitement was another (I think) really promising performance from Kacaniklic. No, he’s not the finished article, but nor is he supposed to be. A lot of the tentativeness that has dogged his game seemed to have gone.
4 – Kvist was rightly criticised for a few bizarrely careless passes, but again we looked a better side *overall* with him in that role. People will latch onto the handful of obvious mistakes but I still like what he offers.
5 – Lewis Holtby is a star. Even when he’s not doing star things he’s just really good. I remember a tweet in January from someone saying “Holtby? Not good enough!” and wondering what planet this person was on, but Holtby has exceeded expectations. The fact that he’s come into a demoralised team that’s struggling and shone so brightly is hugely impressive. We will need a few more tangible results from him if we’re to stay up but Holtby’s pretty clearly the best player we’ve had since Dembele left.
6 – John Heitinga had another good game. I’ve been suspicious of Riether for ages and I thought that having a right back who can defend made a big difference. I expected Heitinga to bring a presence to the side but had no idea how good he was. The clue was in his selection for the last World Cup Final, but even so, there was a suspicion that he had somehow lost something. Not so, he looks a terrific player.
7 – A word for Stockdale at the back. Again, people will remember the odd bad moment but given all the needless setbacks in his Fulham career I think we can give him those. He’s been a good goalkeeper and always done pretty well. His save in the second half was one of those that looked good and actually was: he raced off his line and made it difficult for the forward, but I liked the save in the first better, as the ball had been deflected en route to person who ultimately took the shot so Stockdale would have had trouble setting himself early. It was a fine save.
8 – Amorebieta has pedigree, so it’s strange that he’s played so badly this year. But this was one of his best games for the club. We can’t know how much the poor management of the squad has affected different players, but I’ll say this: if you’re moving to a new league, and walk into Fulham 13/14 vintage, well, my goodness, that’s a shock to the system isn’t it? Let’s not write him off yet.
9 – Sidwell gave 150% again. I don’t know what to make of the bloke any more but at this point he’s doing the things presumably that need doing in there.
10 – I’m quite annoyed by the Heitinga/Woodrow goals. A) if the technology shows the ball a millimetre not over the line then honestly, is that legitimate? We watch the cricket and it’s acknowledge that there’s a margin of error at play. Here the ball’s just canoned off the bar, probably isn’t round at this point, and bounces over the line. Except it wasn’t over the line because the outer skin of the ball, had it been fully round, kissed the outer edge of the goalline. I don’t want to be deliberately obtuse because clearly “the whole of the ball” means “the whole of the ball” but deary me. It feels like you’re working to a false precision. I don’t necessarily know that the right answer was for a goal to be given but it’s pretty hard to stomach that it wasn’t. Dunno. Then Woodrow bundles it in. Are we saying he was offside when the ball was struck? Is that what happened? Was he? I’m not sure about that. Was he interfering? Maybe he was but, well, thank goodness Dejagah scored, eh? Would have been an absolutely killer way to lose.