Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Saturday December 20 2008
Three goals, three points and a comprehensive victory, what more can you ask with Christmas just around the corner?
Fulham are now eighth in the Premier League after a three goal rout of Middlesbrough and suddenly any thoughts of facing a relegation battle are distant ones.
Since taking over Lawrie Sanchez, approximately a year ago, Roy Hodgson has, slowly but surely, put this club on a new level, a level whereby goals are not conceded too easily and Craven Cottage is becoming something of a fortress.
For the visit of Middlesbrough, Roy resisted the temptation to alter the side that had earned a point in a 0-0 draw at Stoke the previous weekend. Bobby Zamora, who missed that particular trip was only afforded a place on the bench.
In the Fulham goal, Mark Schwarzer would have been particularly keen to put on a good display against the team he left in the summer.
In fact, once the action started, it was to be Schwarzer who was to make the first significant contribution from a Fulham player when he punched clear an early Boro corner.
It was a strange start to the game with the midfield areas not being able to get hold of the ball with too many long passes, from both sides, not making it a pretty spectacle.
But, slowly, Bullard and Murphy, in the Fulham midfield, started to take control of a game that was to provide superb entertainment in a game that ebbed and flowed from end to end for the remainder of the first half.
The fact that we had to wait forty-one minutes for the first goal of the game was amazing as both sides carved out clear cut chances.
The first of these came Fulham`s way when Johnson saw a shot deflected for a corner. From the resulting corner Pantsil had a great chance to head home but from six yards out somehow contrived to head wide.
Boro responded with a significant miss of their own when, also from a corner, Tuncay also saw his effort go wide. With the game sweeping from end to end, Turnbull somehow got a n arm to a Johnson effort after he`d beaten the offside trap and Schwarzer denied Aliadiere with a save with his feet.
On the half hour mark, the injured Gera had to make way for Zamora and Zamora was to have an instant impact being involved in the build up to a chance that saw Davies fire inches wide.
As half time approached Johnson was felled by an awful tackle from Arca whereby the offender went over the top of the ball. Despite protests from the Fulham bench the offence was not punished with the red card it deserved and Johnson was lucky to be able to continue after treatment.
Just as half time looked like it would be 0-0 Fulham got that vital breakthrough. Bullard instigated a move that involved Dempsey and Zamora before reacting quickly to sweep home a loose ball. Give this man a contract Mr Al Fayed, without him we`d only be half the side we are.
The second half saw Middlesbrough start with Mido on in place for Arca, the villain of the piece in that first half challenge we`ve already mentioned. Whether it was intended to save Arca from himself or to merely try a different philosophy we`ll never know because fifteen minutes into the second half it was game set and match.
The referee, Keith Stroud, awarded us a harsh penalty after the ball had hit a Boro arm although what chance he had of getting out of the way was minimal. Murphy, as cool as a cucumber, stepped forward and just beat the dive of Turnbull to make it 2-0.
With Boro trying to force their way back into the game, Demspey netted a third after another good move involving Johnson and Murphy that saw Zamora make a run to drag a defender away leaving Dempsey with enough space to shoot home.
So, a comfortable win and a trip to White Hart Lane, on Boxing Day, to look forward to.
Well done lads, it was a perfect pick-me-up for Christmas.
Date:Saturday December 20 2008
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