Jack and Loz Not at the Cottage - Blog 165

Date: 6th February 2021

Opposition: West Ham

Score: 0-0

Fulham Goal scorers: were mainly left on the bench

MOTM: After a feeble performance against Leicester, Ademola Lookman was at the heart of every attack driving forwards and wriggling through gaps. If the desire for redemption could be converted into goals, we would have won the match. For the first time, a shout out to Ruby (as we now think of him) who seems to have simultaneously remembered how to play football and decided he wants to play it for Fulham

Snacks: Loz - Wasabi peas and a Small Beer; Jack - salt and vinegar crisps and a Large Wine

When football historians look back at the strange season of 2020-21 they will debate which of Fulham’s matches epitomises the club’s season. Surely we now have the answer: Fulham v West Ham at Craven Cottage on a very wet February evening. This one had it all:-

- a confusing starting line up. Was it 5-4-0 or 4-3-2-1? Where was BDR playing? Why were there no strikers?

- some exquisite passing and confident possession

- some faffing around at the back

- a tendency for a fast counterattack to peter out in the final third

- many, many wasted chances. It would be hard to tell whose miss was worst: Tosin from the corner (again), Bobby over the bar, Frank at the keeper, Mitro inches wide, Lookman more than once, Ruby more than twice.

- the unusual ability to turn a promising attack into desperate defence. Tete, who had a fairly good game overall, is particularly guilty of passing the ball backwards more often than forwards

- the right subs at the wrong time

- solidity at the back completely unbalanced by waywardness up front

- most of all, the tedious and heart wrenching fact that we can dominate and outfight yet another top side but come away with a draw

If we were at a different point in the season, or a different place in the table there would be much to applaud in Saturday evening’s performance. We wanted a reaction to the disappointing defeat to Leicester and we got one. We wanted the players to attack with intent and verve and they did. We asked if there was any fight left in a team teetering on the brink and were answered with a resounding yes.

In short, the players did nearly everything right and were almost the undoing of a very good West Ham side. As expected of a team called the Irons, our opponents pressed hard but couldn’t take control of the game. They also defended well but Scott Parker forced David Moyes into a double sub and Fabianski was booked for time wasting - here was a team and a manager hanging on for a draw. In a marked improvement, Fulham made few mistakes with the ball (other than when trying to shoot with it) and played for 90 minutes with pace and resilience.

After several weeks of fading form it was refreshing to see most of the players back to their best. Lookman was everywhere - creative and driven, even if his decision making in the box let him down. Cav showed some tremendous skill and ball control even if everything he did in the box let him down.

Ruby held the ball up, linked up with his colleagues and finally seems to be showing us what he can do. BUT his shots let him down and as he improves he becomes no less frustrating to watch - he is such a nearly man and that’s not what we need. Mitro was, once again, excellent as an impact sub, jumping into the mix as soon as he came on and trying to create chances for others as well as spearheading the attack but.....you know the rest.

Frank made a difference straight away – so imposing and hard to rein in, Harrison Reed was as busy and effective as ever and it was good to see Maja who looks to have slotted in well.

Whilst Scott making attacking subs – adding to Cav rather than replacing him - was the right thing to do it doesn’t make sense that they were made so late. Surely either Mitro or Maja, if not both, could have come on much earlier. However, hopefully Scott has seen the way forward: 4 at the back and 2 strikers. Give Mitro time, get the ball to him in the box and he will start scoring again.

This was anything but a bore draw; the players are playing for Scott and each other and trying to survive by playing attractive football. But, of course, that’s not enough - you don’t get points for style, or for trying, and more than anything else the result feels like yet another missed opportunity.

Random Musings

- Do Lemina and Benrahma have the same hairdresser?

- was Harrison Reed playing left back at the end?

- it was nice to see Bobby Zamora in studio but he did seem to be rooting for West Ham

- the commentators let themselves down as soon as they opened their mouths

- we didn’t think much of Ryan Fredericks

- The pitch looks like it had hosted the Six Nations. It needs a rest as much as many of the players

- the last time we saw David Moyes it was in person, in the OSP after we had beaten Leeds in December 2019 when he was unemployed and, although we didn’t know it that night, Fulham were on the rise again

- the red card incident was like something out of a parish council meeting. Credit to Mitro for trying to tell Mike Dean it wasn’t a red but the ref had read the standing orders and thought he had some authority. Soucek needs to learn to put his arm back without lifting his elbow though.

Although there are positives to take from the match we are still staring at an incontrovertible fact: that the rest of the season will be a long goodbye to the Premier League and barring a miracle, Fulham are going down. But at least now it looks like we’re going down fighting.