Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 272

Date: 30th January 2024

Opposition: Everton

Score: 0-0

Weather: decent

Atmosphere: decent

MOTM: it was a tale of two fullbacks as Timothy and Antonee raced up and down flinging in crosses and protecting the clean sheet. Both came close to scoring and both were involved in the match saving goal-line clearance. The difference is that while Antonee’s hard work and athleticism are obvious, Timothy is a Man of the Match contender but you have to look twice to notice he’s even on the pitch. To say he’s understated would be an understatement.

Drinks/dinner: the train strike put paid to any frivolities like that

After the thrills of one Cup run and the disappointment of another it was comforting to be back in a place we have come to know well - a lower mid-table Premier League scrap against another team that struggles to score.

This was never going to be a high scoring game but with a total of 21 corners and 46 shots, the double doughnut was somewhat surprising.

From Fulham’s point of view, the flaws are glaring. It’s not the defence, who were excellent. As mentioned above, we have some of the best fullbacks in the league (and we can’t even mention Kenny Tete in this blog) (we just did). And it’s not the midfield who demonstrated on Tuesday that they are, for the most part, experienced rather than aging.

Raúl Jimenez has flashes of brilliance. He knows where the goal is even if he doesn’t get there by the simplest route. But Raúl was brought in as an understudy and has been forced to play the leading man. Sometimes he’s risen to the challenge, on Tuesday he didn’t. However, Raúl’s injury is a disaster because his back-up is Muniz whose pressing would look great in the Championship, and Muniz’s back-up is Vini whose touch would look great in Sunday League.

We appreciate that recruiting a striker is difficult. It’s a small pool of talent and you need to find someone who’s available, and affordable, who Marco wants, and who wants to come to Fulham. But we’ve had 6 months to find that person. And now we’ve got 1 day left or we’ll be limping to the end of the season on goalless draws.

But we digress.

For a goalless draw, this was an entertaining game. Both sides threw everything at it but neither could make a breakthrough. Everton defended very well and had 11 men behind the ball often. Fulham’s creative players tried every trick they knew but without a precision finisher neither the clever switches nor the direct crosses led to anything other than frustration.

In Some Moments, Tom Cairney was so in command of the midfield that he looked almost nonchalant but at other times he slowed the game down too much. There were a lot of passes but too many of them went backwards and, as usual, we gave the ball away too often. There was too much head volleyball which we’re no good at. Willian tried to work magic but was floored (literally) by the bruising Everton defence. Bobby was all over the place (in more ways than one) and Joao was busy but not inspired.

Which brings us to Andreas and his corners. He took most of the 15 and we saw: long corners, short corners, medium corners, inswingers, outswingers, a weird hoakey-coakey thing with Tom which they kept trying even though it never came off and - and please never do this again, Andreas - a dribbled corner.

As for the shots, Muniz had the best chance but headed it straight at Jordan Pickford. Tosin forced an amazing save, Castagne hit the woodwork, Raúl put one just wide, and we won’t even begin to list all the balls into the box that no one got on the end of.

At the other end, the clean sheet is a real achievement and it was a real team effort. We were saved once by Andreas’s inamorata, the crossbar, several times by Leno and, in a last minute melee of hacking and panic, by almost the entire team in the six yard box.

The relief of not conceding in the chaos made the point feel more valuable than it might have done and we will take it and move on. But move on to what? We’ve mentioned the dearth of forwards but of our midfield:

Harry - Missing in Action

Iwobi - Missing in Africa

Joao - will be Missing after another yellow card

Traore - Missing, Presumed Dead

Neeskens Kebano - Missing him like crazy

With Diop injured as well and Bassey still a high flying Super Eagle we barely have 11 senior players to start the next few games. On the whole (and Tuesday is a good example of this) we are playing well and Marco is working miracles with his threadbare squad, but need reinforcements as urgently as we need goals.

Random musings: -

- Tinned salmon anyone?

- Was that Andreas’ kids? So cute!

- The half time football bull’s eye competition was one of the best parts of the evening, particularly when they had to dodge the subs. It could be made even better with more obstacles to deal with

- Castagne was much better at winning throw-ins than taking them

- In the first half Antonee did some ball-boying, got back on-side and had a decent shot all in about 5 seconds

- Compared to recent opponents, Everton played dirty and they largely got away with it

- When Roy Hodgson makes his team attack the Putney End in the first half it’s clever; when anyone else does it it’s desperate.

We end this blog as we end the transfer window, prioritising hope over experience. The season turns on what happens over the next few hours and the next few games. It could nosedive into a dogfight or soar into a thrilling ride. Most likely it will tail off into anonymity with the occasional burst of excitement. But one way or another, the run for home has begun.