Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 279

Date: 21st April 2024

Opposition: Liverpool

Score: 1-3

Fulham goalscorer: Timothy Castagne

Weather: unseasonably chilly

Atmosphere: disappointed

MOTM: it seems odd that our best player in a defeat was a defender but Calvin Bassey had a fantastic game, making up as best he could for the chaos around him, showing how crucial he is to the team and ensuring the score wasn’t any worse

Pre-match: The Riverside Studios

Post-match: Reun Thai where we ran into old friends and Harrison Reed’s mate

As Fulham reach the end of this convoluted season, fans were hopeful that we might go out in a blaze of glory. Or even a blaze of competence. There was talk of king making and king breaking and another top 10 finish. But here we are, stuck in 12th, with even bed making looking beyond some of the team.

It was unusual to go into a game against top 6 opposition knowing the result mattered to them far more than it did to us. But that’s part of the problem. For as twisted and tangled as this season has been, it’s been a successful one. We’ve achieved our aim; we haven’t suffered from second season syndrome and we’ve made staying up again look easy. Maybe there could have been more, maybe we’ve settled for mid table mediocrity when we could have aimed higher but, given the events of last summer, it’s hard not to feel satisfied with where we’ve ended up.

In the first half, we gave Liverpool a good game. Play fell into the expected pattern - they had most of the ball, we tried our luck on the counter. Allowing them to play their game required constant vigilance which, give or take a mistake from Tosin, we largely managed. We had to think quickly, pass quickly, get the ball forward quickly. There were some stunning examples of this and also some abject failures. Iwobi in particular was guilty of wildly casual passing. We thought we’d missed him when we played Liverpool in the cup; perhaps we were wrong.

The 1-1 scoreline at half time was well deserved. If anything, Fulham had edged the half. Liverpool’s goal had come from one of their players throwing himself to the ground just outside the box while ours came from open play. The ref made many mistakes in the match but one of his biggest was to make Andreas Perreira angry by not awarding a corner that Andreas had won. From that Moment, our goal was coming. Andreas, Iwobi and Muniz piled on the pressure and Liverpool were in disarray. The ball fell to Timothy Castagne who duly delivered his first Fulham goal and it was hard to tell who was more delighted for him - his teammates or the fans.

The resilience shown in the first half is one of the reasons why the apathy shown in the second was so annoying. Suddenly, playing football seemed too much like hard work for our….footballers. Antonee Robinson, the best interceptor in Europe didn’t make any interceptions. Joao Pahlinha, the best tackler in the world, didn’t make any tackles. Iwobi reached the stage where he couldn’t complete a pass. Tosin reached the stage when he wasn’t just on the beach, but in the beach bar after one too many pina coladas telling anyone who’ll listen how he could have played for a big club.

Bassey was now doing the work of the whole back line and whilst Andreas never stopped running and Muniz never stopped trying to tear himself free from the hugs of the Liverpool defenders, the rest of the team just didn’t do enough. It didn’t help that after Marco Silva brought on Harry Wilson, Jurgen Klopp - dressed as if he was on a camping holiday - brought on some slightly better substitutes.

Meanwhile, the ref was working hard to give every decision Liverpool’s way. A tackle on a Liverpool player in a dangerous area which had led to a free kick in the first half was waved away as perfectly fair when the same thing happened to Tom Cairney in the second half. A blatant handball decision only went our way when literally 20,000 people shouted “hand ball” at the dithering ref.

However, as poor as the ref was, he wasn’t the reason we lost the game. We were architects of our own downfall with too many mistakes and not enough determination. Our subs came too late and tactical changes became too much like hard work for our….tactical genius and he only made three.

So, a bit like the season, the match tailed off into disappointment. Fulham have nothing left to fight for, and it shows.

Random musings: -

- Imagine if the bicycle kick had come off….

- Timothy’s goal was sweet revenge for his teammates teasing him about his weird hair cut!

- Liverpool had the largest entourage we’ve ever seen - there must have been about 5 people in long padded jackets per player

- Raúl watched the entire second half from the Hammy End corner flag

- We were really missing Willian but what’s going to happen if he leaves this summer???

- Why keep playing Tosin if he thinks he’s too good for us and isn’t going to sign a new deal? Unless Marco knows he is going to sign a new deal….

- Liverpool’s goal celebration in the first half was totally stupid (didn’t they know where their own fans were?) and classless (do they think adults in other jobs behave like that?)

- Having mentioned the whereabouts of the Liverpool fans, they obviously weren’t all in the away section.

Being safe so early is a double edged sword. Of course it’s better than the alternative and, after the yo-yo years it’s nice to have a relaxing spring. But fans pay good money (in some cases, too much money) to watch their team play football, not plan their summer holidays.

There are 4 games left, none to be taken lightly. Let’s try to finish the season in style.