Tuesday, September 30

Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away

Fulham 1 West Ham 2

It’s different up west. Walking from Fulham Broadway it’s lunch at Pret a Manger instead of Ken’s Café and bistros instead of Belly Busters. At the Local Hero cafe Matt and Lisa are asked by a woman to look after her handbag while she goes to the loo. Now that wouldn't happen in Green Street.

Through leafy village-like streets we find the Cottage pub. Inside they take credit cards, it’s safe to wear your colours and Fulham fans politely make room for you at the bar. Fraser, Matt, Lisa, Nigel, Jo and Mike and two of Fraser’s Fulham mates are all here as we discuss the possibilities of Zamora, Konchesky, Paintsil and Bullard scoring against us (near to certain) over a civilised pint of London Pride.

A gentle amble to the ground past the “Neutral section” of the Putney Road stand (is there such thing as a neutral football fan?) and we take our seats, which are practically in the Thames. The river looks glorious in the sunlight and there’s always the prospect of watching the boats go by should we be crap.

“Shame the boat race isn’t on,” I muse.

“No, the same two teams get to the final every year,” says Nigel.

Zamora and Paintsil receive applause and songs from the away fans. Despite the Sheffield United judgment our fans give constant spirited support, as always.

For the first 40 minutes Fulham have the better of it as we give away a series of free kicks around our box. Davies volleys wide, and Green saves well from Bullard before being clattered by Paintsil, who is suddenly abused by the fans who thought he was better than Kaka a few minutes earlier. Zamora puts a header wide, thankfully looking more like the inconsistent finisher we sold.

Andy Johnson lunges in studs first at Ilunga and is lucky to only receive a yellow card. Parker and Noble are working tremendously hard in the middle but we’re creating little. Carlton Cole meanwhile is constantly controlling the ball but running into trouble.

“When he was arrested was it for performing an endless three-point turn?” I ask.

“We’ve got Craig Bellamy!” sing our fans as our Welsh irritant warms up.

“Not for long we haven’t,” suggests Matt, “he’s hardly ever played for us.”

Just as we’re saying we’d be happy to get to half time at 0-0 we score. Having been clattered in the right by Konchesky, Etherington recovers to sprint down the right, an area he hasn’t been seen in since the days of the Domesday Book. Incredibly he crosses with his right foot, Schwarzer can’t hold it and the ball falls to Carlton Cole to wallop home.

“Let’s raise a glass to Carlton Cole!” suggests Matt.

“Always believe in Carlton Cole!” sing the 2500-strong Spandeau Ballet revivalist contingent.

“Now would be good time to score another,” says Mystic Fraser, and 20 seconds later we do. Noble plays a through ball, the Fulham defence scarpers and the rejuvenated Matty Etherington bats the keeper to slot home his second goal in a week. And then Johnson gets sent off for his second yellow card and surely even we can’t blow this?

In the second half Fulham fight back, despite being down to ten men, and as ever we struggle to keep a 2-0 lead. Neill handles in the box and Murphy makes it 2-1.

But we are still playing some good attacking football and have numerous chances to finish Fulham off. Ilunga, looking strong and a real find at left back, produces a good save from Schwarzer.

Nigel receives a text saying that Paul Newman has died. We wonder if Hayden Mullins will come on as a midfield Hustler and if Al Fayed will show us the Colour of Money.

Etherington makes a great run down the left only to slice the ball into the side netting causing the vicar’s son by me to curse “How many f**king chances do we need? That was a pile of dog poo Etherington!”

Substitute Bellamy puts a volley over an open goal, Carlton Cole, having a great second half, has another shot saved and then Behrami, looking stronger and fitter as the game goes on, is the latest Iron to go close.

There’s still time for Zamora to not connect with an inviting free kick and Bullard to place an injury-time free-kick into the wall.

At last the whistle blows and it’s three points and stuff those litigious whingers from Sheffield. Tottenham are going toxic, Arsenal are about to lose to Hull and we’re up to fifth. And once we’re in the Champions League we’ll easily raise that £30 million.

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