Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Sunday March 16 2008
The great escape is on - it`s official!
After what could only be described as one of the best Fulham performances of the season, a Brian McBride goal was enough to inflict a first Premier League defeat on Everton in 2008 and also give Fulham their fourth victory of the season.
The gap between us and safety is now three points and with a trip to St James Park to play a Newcastle side in freefall next weekend, it really is time to be an optimist.
Knowing that three points were a necessity Roy Hodgson chose an attacking formation with McBride and Johnson up front. The switch meant that our top scorer in the Premier League, Clint Dempsey, was unfortunate to be relegated to the substitutes bench.
On a blustery day with squally showers it was Fulham who got the action underway. For a change we were stroking the ball around nicely but we`re, as usual, struggling to create any major chances. Nevertheless, we looked comfortable against an Everton side perhaps nursing a UEFA Cup hangover.
As early as the 6th minute Bullard dragged a shot meekly wide before, four minutes later, good work from Simon Davies created a half chance for McBride but his volley went well wide. Just before the quarter of an hour mark Everton were dealt a blow when Andy Johnson limped off with an injury to be replaced by Tony Hibbert.
Everton, as the half wore on, slowly began to come more into the game and Pienaar saw his shot deflected just wide off of Osman. Keller was then forced to save low down from Yakubu before, on the stroke of half time, having to repeat the feat as Yakubu rampaged through. All square at half time and all to play for in the second half.
Neither manager made any changes at half time but it was to be Everton that were continue in the vein of form they had finished the first half in. Hangeland survived a penalty appeal before Arteta struck a free kick that rebounded to safety off the wall.
However, slowly but surely, Fulham began to establish a stranglehold in a game that began to look more winnable. Johnson saw a cut back turned behind for a corner and the resulting cross was narrowly headed over by the American as he and Hangeland out-jumped the home defence.
Another corner, minutes later saw Davies head over and it looked only a matter of time before we could get that breakthrough. However, Konchesky had to remain alert to block Neville as the full back made a rare foray forward.
However, in the 67th minute, Fulham did take the lead. A great break down the left flank saw a Davies cross slightly deflected and McBride did marvellously well to adjust himself to head past Howard from six yards out. It was now a matter of whether Fulham could hang on after conceding so many late goals.
As it turned out, we had plenty of chances to wrap the match up with Johnson playing a prominent role in the attack. Twice the rangy American fired just over as Everton looked to be paying for the energy expended in midweek against Fiorentina.
In fact the only major scare we had to survive came soon after we`d taken the lead when Yobo headed a corner wide form a good position. But what the hell, we won and it is a great feeling, one I`ve not experienced many times this season!
Team - Keller, Stalteri, Hughes, Hnageland, Konchesky, Andreasen, Bullard (Volz), Murphy (Bocanegra), Davies, Johnson, McBride (Dempsey)
Unused Subs - Batista, Healy
Scorer - McBride
Date:Sunday March 16 2008
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