Thursday, January 31

Not a Thriller but it is Bad

Fulham 3 West Ham 1

Our pre-match organization is as shambolic as West Ham’s defence. After telling our butlers our whereabouts, Fraser and myself proceed from Hammersmith tube down Fulham Palace Road at different times, Matt and Lisa wait in the Delicious café having come via Fulham Road and when we do finally rendezvous no-one has researched a pub. So it’s a rather good pre-match Americano (what no Nescafe?) instead. 

We get to see the famous Michael Jackson statue at the corner of the Hammersmith End, which looks like the work of a not-very-talented FdA art student. Jackson went to all of one game and that was probably in an oxygen tent.

It’s weird watching the game from below pitch level at the front of the Fulham End, though £20 is a very reasonable price. It’s a frantic blur of lost possession and challenges with neither side stringing more than a few passes together. We get a good view of Schwarzer hollering at his defence and Hangerland mopping up everything against the unimposing Chamakh. Dimitar Berbatov is the one player with time and class and is brilliant all evening.

Fulham take the lead at the other end after ten minutes, Berbatov heading home a free kick with three Fulham players offside when the ball is kicked. It might have been offside, but Jaaskelainen doesn’t react either as a fairly tame header eludes him at his near post.

Our best chance is when Diame makes a burst down the left and crosses for Nolan to head wide when he should have been on target. But nought shots on target in the first half says it all. Joe Cole is hustled out of the game and Jarvis rarely gets a cross in.

West Ham start much better in the second half with Diame looking determined. Three minutes into the half Noble’s free kick finds clucking Kevin Nolan, who loses Berbatov and fires across Schwarzer into the net, his first goal since November.

We then commit the basic error of conceding a goal a minute later. An attack breaks down, Duff gets down the left and Demel fails to stop him crossing. Astonishingly Rodallega manages to beat Tomkins, Reid, O’Brien and Jussi to head home. He wants it more and it’s a rubbish goal to concede.

Hammers try to come back, with Schwarzer firing across goal and the ball trickling wide of the post. Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll (minus pony tail and now with a dodgy bob) come on as subs. Carroll gets a good left shot in with his first touch and produces a safe and also fires over a few minutes later.

Sub Matt Taylor moves to left back and crosses low when we have a giant forward line and then gets caught out as Fulham go close on the break. Tomkins has a nightmare and his confidence appears shot. We’re missing James Collins more than anyone.

“Typical Allardyce team!” says the bloke behind us we fire hopeful balls at our front men. Nolan has a huge row with Noble for kicking the ball out of play just because Dimitar Berbatov has a slight hamstring tweak. At least Kevin appears angry.

It’s all over in added time. Jussi saves well from Rodallega, but from a tight angle Petric shoots the ball across goal and in off the unlucky O’Brien. We get a fine view of Damien Duff thumping has badge in front of us.

We leave the stadium past the naff Michael Jackson statue. It’s not been a Thriller but it has been Bad.  We walk past the Thames while resisting the temptation to jump in. Beats the River Lea I’m afraid. Best result of the day is finding the Crabtree pub, which has rotating obscure real ales (we try Canberra and Detox), Pacifico lager for Lisa, Aspinall’s cider for Fraser and a menu of Cornish fish, polenta and halloumi. Just like Ken’s Cafe really. Fulham fans don’t drink white wine, they sip lovely real ales.

“That was relegation defending,” muses Matt over his pint of Detox. We wonder if the Michael Jackson statue might have performed better in defence or even Billie Jean. Swansea is now yet another must-win game.

No comments: