Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Saturday September 27 2008
Come on! Someone explain to me how the hell that happened?
How could we be in total control for forty-three minutes of the first half and then go in to the break 2-0 down and down to ten men?
It`s almost a question more suited to 'What Happened Next` than this web site.
West Ham arrived in West London on the back of a shock Carling Cup loss to Watford, we took to the field on the back of a shock Carling Cup loss to Burnley, so both teams were looking for the sort of performance that would auger well for the future.
Roy Hodgson dismantled the experimental side that had lost at Turf Moor and re-installed his big guns in an attempt to maintain our 100% home record, Gianfranco Zola had to take to the field without his leading striker Dean Ashton, so right from the start the odds looked to be in our favour.
And that`s how it looked for forty-three minutes.
Fulham made a good start and we had West Ham pinned back in there own half. Simon Davies fired a great half-volley just inches wide with Robert Green well beaten and Bobby Zamora saw a header just drift past the back post.
West Ham couldn`t push us back into our own half until the 10th minute when the enterprising Etherington earned a corner. Perhaps the first sign that things were not going to go all our way when Andrew Johnson picked up a yellow card for a bad tackle on Ilunga, in all honesty it could have been a straight red.
Nevertheless, we still looked more likely to be the first team to score. Zamora curled a shot just past the post and Brede Hangeland almost netted with a glancing header from a Jimmy Bullard corner.
Bullard then had two free kick opportunities in an identical position just outside the area. Sadly the first hit the wall but the second saw Green produce a save right out of the top draw. Unfortunately, the enthusiastic John Pantsil trod on Green and the keeper needed a lengthy spell of treatment.
Then it happened, our world fell down around our ears.
Just before half time Etherington scampered away and Mark Scharzer could only parry his shot for the lurking Carlton Cole to pounce.
A minute later Schwarzer produced a piece of comical keeping when he rushed out only to be left in no-mans land as a Noble long ball appeared to confuse him. Etherington couldn`t believe his luck and slotted home into an empty net.
2-0 down and puzzled looks all around.
But things were to get worse!
Just on the stroke of half time Andrew Johnson crudely fouled Lucas Neill and was shown a second yellow card before the inevitable red card condemned him to an early bath.
We were always going to be up against it in the second half and for a time it looked as if West Ham would put us to the sword. A Noble shot produced a save from Schwarzer and Faubert drilled a thirty-five yard effort very close from the clearance.
But, Fulham, despite the man disadvantage, rallied and just before the hour mark pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Neill was adjudged to have handled a Zoltan Gera header. Danny Murphy made no mistake from the spot and it was game on.
Suddenly, we looked as if we could pull off a miracle. Zamora went close before Bullard had two more chances from free kicks, sadly neither could get us back on level terms.
In fact Craig Bellamy, on as a substitute, could have increased the West Ham lead. Hangeland did well to block his initial shot but Bellamy should have done better than put the rebound high over the bar.
It would be so easy to have a moan about our side but I can`t. In the face of adversity they were superb and on another day will play poorer and still win.
I guess it was just one of those days.
Date:Saturday September 27 2008
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