Fulham 0-1 Millwall

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The giant flag saying “Still Believe” still hangs from Craven Cottage, but with the air of an “EVERYTHING MUST GO” sign in the window of a shop that closed 18 months ago.  

Still believe? In what?  In the youngsters? Sure. In the manager? Well maybe. In the club overall? Well there’s nothing to not believe in really, is there, unless we’re talking about the club’s ability to win football matches, which is a different question and not so easily answered.

In any case, they’d be better taking it down. 

Today Fulham lost to a spirited Millwall side that had the gumption to get ahead and then stay there.  The opener looked soft, with Ricardo Fuller putting in a cross that floated across the box and was volleyed home at the back post. Scoring goals should be harder than that.

Going a goal down at home means that you’ll probably have most of the ball and most of the attack, which Fulham did. That’s how the game goes and we should be wary of getting too excited about what followed. 62% possession? Fine, but that’s normal under the circumstances.   The trick is to hurt the opposition and again it didn’t necessarily feel that we were.  Part of this is fitting a story to an outcome: if Eisfeld’s early drive had crept in early on then that’s a different game. Hugo Rodallega, willing and present amid most of our good moments, looked to have a clear chance in the second half, but shot straight at Forde in the Millwall net.  He had a better chance soon after, but wanted a bit more time than seemed absolutely necessary and his eventual dig at goal was cleared off the line.

The chances were kind of there and I’d say we weren’t that far off, but goals decide games and we didn’t deliver on that front. My friend Lewis, a Millwall fan, mentioned that it was probably a good thing for them to get Fulham now rather than in a few weeks time, and I can see that.  There still looks like half a useful team brewing here, but I think we all know that it’ll take time.

The question I have is whether Magath has the patience and know how to develop this young squad.  It’s dangerous to read too much into these things but Shaun Hutchinson, warming up, had the air of a man with the wind taken out of his sails.  I have a real issue with his being dropped after a single game. If you think that one game is sufficient to discard players then that says a couple of things: you misjudged them in picking them last week, or you think that pulling young players in and out of the team on one game’s evidence is the way to do things.  I associate the latter with knee-jerk reactions among supporters, not with managers whom you’d hope might select a player then back them.  By way of an analogy, it is generally accepted that the England cricket team is better off now that it gives its chosen players a run of games rather than switching them around after every match.  I feel that the same applies here. That’s not to say that rotation isn’t a good thing either, but that’s more controlled, that’s more ‘horses for courses’.  

Speaking of fans, and this really is low hanging fruit, some of this lot were pretty ordinary today.  Stan and I were sitting right at the front and couldn’t see much at the other end, but the people behind us were effing and blinding about everything.  They were particularly pulling people up on not shooting from distance when they could have. Never mind that you can’t see how far out players are from where we were sitting, it’s stupid to take hopeful pot-shots unless things really open up.  Finally, Scott Parker punted one into row Z of the Putney End, rather making a point.  It never ceases to amaze me how angry people can get about things that they either can’t see or don’t understand or both.  It’s funny how the message boards talk about ‘johnny come latelys’ not ‘getting’ football, and Fulham’s place in same, but most of the bile comes from grizzled old gits who you’d assume have been going (and moaning) for years.  Yeah, football is for letting off steam, if that’s your bag, but lots of people just seem to want to shout and swear for the sake of shouting and swearing. Now that’s fine, too, but it can add up to an atmosphere that isn’t as positive as it might be.

Anyway. I was too close to the pitch to have any sense of space and movement and could only judge what I saw on an incident by incident basis (Hoogland slides, wins tackle, yay Hoogland; Parker tackle, yay Parker; etc, etc) which makes judging a game basically impossible (but perhaps explains why everyone loved Steve Sidwell, who was pretty good in the incident by incident stuff but perhaps not in the bigger picture).  So I have no idea who played well and who didn’t.  Rodallega seems to have attracted criticism but I’d be more inclined to praise him for being in good positions and being involved with what appeared to be most of our opportunities.  The two full-backs continue to impress me, but we’ll have to see the goal again on TV to see what happened on the goal.  All three midfielders looked like they did alright to me.  Maybe Williams on the wing struggled to get into the game but I might be miles off on that. 

Let’s not go overboard. This one could easily have gone either way and I’m not sure that our start proves much beyond the fact that a team with mid-table inclinations can very easily lose two close games in a row.  Three in a row, four in a row even.  This season is 46 games long and we know it’ll take time.  How can it not, when you’ve essentially built the team from scratch?  So if we know it’ll take time we need to find it in ourselves to give the players and the manager time.  

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Fulham

41 Joronen
2 Hoogland Yellow Card 47′
6 Bodurov Yellow Card 63′
38 Burgess
3 Stafylidis Yellow Card 77′
21 Christensen Subbed Off 45′
8 Parker
28 Hyndman
27 Williams
20 Rodallega
7 Eisfeld Subbed Off 61′
SUBS
4 Hutchinson
14 Roberts
16 Woodrow
30 David Subbed On 77′
32 Kavanagh
40 Bettinelli

Millwall

1 Forde
44 Edwards
2 Dunne
16 Beevers
28 Malone
7 Martin
6 Williams
26 Abdou Subbed Off 78′
11 Woolford Goal 12′ Subbed Off 62′
27 McDonald
19 Fuller Subbed Off 73′
SUBS
4 Wright
8 Easter Subbed On 73′
9 Gregory
10 Bailey Subbed On 62′
13 Gerrar
17 Webster
18 Gueye

Weather 20o. Wind 10mph Westerly. Partly cloudy.

 

9 thoughts on “Fulham 0-1 Millwall

  1. I’ll suggest someone who played well: Hyndman. Very tidy and so aware, like Joe Allen for Swansea a few years back. Amazing given his age.

    It was alarming how easily Fuller got his cross in for the goal. Not sure who the two responsible defenders were but I assume Stafylidis was one of them.

    I think it’ll come – on another day Hugo would have put away one of those chances in our second half spell and then who knows, maybe we’d have gone on to get another. It felt that way. McCormack’s neat one-twos were promising too and suggest he’ll make a difference when he gets up to speed.

    The fixtures are a bit of a worry: after Wolves we have three of the next four away from home against last season’s better teams. We don’t want to be on one or zero points in the middle of September. This Wednesday’s game is quite important now, I think, lest some panic set in amongst our young ranks.

  2. Pretty much agree with this – a disappointing result, with the goal a rather soft one, but there is almost a good team in this group of players, somewhere. It’s hopefully not too far off.

    I thought the youngsters did pretty well, although I did feel Hyndman could have been a bit more positive – there was a lot of turning around and going back rather than looking to the wing where a good, positive ball was on. Burgess was good, though, and Williams on the left was also positive throughout. Roberts and David looked good when they came on, too. One slight concern about Roberts – everyone around me wanted him on after about 10 minutes, hailing him as the saviour. He was good when he came on, yes – but he was playing right wing and just drifted right into the middle whenever he felt like it, leaving that flank quite exposed. Something that could bite us against better teams perhaps, or if we weren’t ahead? Just a pessimistic thought. Also, all this pressure might not do him any favours…

    Rodallega was okay, but he was pretty static at times. McCormack was far more lively when he came on and it will be of great help when he is fully fit and firing properly again.

    I also agree with your comments about the fans. I moved my ST to the Hammy End this year after a couple of years off for various reasons. Surrounding my new seat were a few guys who continually slammed Burgess and Hyndman (not sure what more you want from them?), as well as Bodurov being called “the worst signing ever”. Granted, the Bulgarian looks a bit dodgy, but give him a chance (like Hutchinson should have been given). Parker got dogs despite a solid game, while even Stafylidis was getting it by the end. It just got very tiring and I really don’t see the point of it. This young team will need some time to get going. Don’t slate them before they’ve even had a chance. Don’t even worry about promotion yet – a year down here building the team with a solid upper-mid-table finish would be completely fine with me if it means a proper push next year.

  3. I wasn’t there so no comment on the performance but on “rotation” generally.

    Magath may be an inveterate tinkerer but it is at least possible that he wants to see as many players as possible in different combinations as early as possible so as to decide who to rely on and whether we need to buy.

    Hutchinson therefore may not be discarded so much as Burgess being given a chance to impress. Maybe it’ll be Burn’s turn on Wednesday.

    I’m fine with this provided it’s settled down in a few weeks time.

  4. On the day only Christiansen failed to show anything. The rest is pretty much summed up in the original post and responses above. We’ve played two teams who gained leads through soft concessions from our point of view and then just sat back effectively, content with breaks. Those difficult aways against more ambitious teams may actually suit us better if — and it’s a big if — we can avoid going behind in the first half.

    As for different combinations, the one yet to be tried is McCormack plus Woodrow. I hope that one is not considered understudy to the other, full-stop, but they are given a chance to work in tandem. What they both have is awareness, so there is potential for them to feed off each other.

  5. Just a thought re the extensive negativity on the message boards, and, it sounds like, at the ground itself. I think it’s time to retire the “Still Believe” banner. It’s had its day and, for me, is even a bit embarrassing now. Believe in what exactly? Perhaps a competition to come up with a better slogan. Something like “Stop Whingeing” or “Have Patience” or “Give it Time”.

  6. I agree with everything in this post apart from the Hutchison comment. Magath, we can see, relies on changing the team to fit the opposition. Formation alone, he looked like he wanted to pick quite a fluid midfield. It started off with Christensen and Parker, with constant interchanging between them and Hyndman in front. He therefore needed 3 ball playing central midfielders and only 2 centre backs, and picked 2 out of the 3 that played last week. Burgess played well, Hutchinson didn’t. He picked Burgess. Just looks like common sense to me.

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