Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Wednesday January 28 2009
A second successive away defeat leaves us all pondering whether this season is starting to develop into another relegation battle.
Our away form has seen us, yet again, as we enter the second half of a season, fail to win a Premier League fixture and only our superb home record is responsible for our mid-table position. But, can that home form be kept going?
For the trip to 'The Stadium of Light` Roy Hodgson returned to the eleven that had started at Upton Park in that 3-1 reverse. That meant that out of the eleven that featured on Saturday, up at Kettering, Stoor, Andreasen and Gera lost their places and had to be content with a place on the bench.
For the opposition, Fulham old boy Steed Malbranque was in the starting line up whilst David Healy was on the bench. As suspected the Sunderland boss recalled to his starting line up his striking duo of Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse.
Sunderland started the fresher of the two teams and should have gone ahead early on but when Malbranque found Cisse our blushes were spared when his shot hit the outside of the post and went wide.
Fulham`s best opportunity in the first half came after twenty minutes but Simon Davies showed a lack of composure and a good opportunity was wasted as the ball flew wide.
As half time approached, Cisse wasted another chance after Schwarzer could only parry a Jones shot into his path.
Half time came neither side made any changes.
With fifty-four minutes gone, the home side made that vital breakthrough. Schwarzer could only block a Cisse effort, after a great Reid run had created the chance and Jones, a day after signing a new four year contract, was there t sweep the ball home from close range.
Sunderland, buoyed by the goal, pushed forward and Schwarer did well to keep the score at 1-1 with a great save from Malbranque. Fulham, to their credit, never gave up though and midway through the second half should have equalised.
Davies was presented with a golden opportunity after an excellent Dempsey knockdown but he blazed over when it was easier to score. With time ebbing away Zamora should have done better with an effort four minutes from time, when well positioned, but inexplicably failed to even work the keeper.
The defeat leaves Fulham with a crucial home fixture against Portsmouth this Saturday. A win I snow becoming essential for two reasons. Firstly to halt the slump down the table that leaves us a mere five points off of relegation and secondly to restore a little bit of confidence that seems to have been eroded in recent weeks, especially on the road.
Date:Wednesday January 28 2009
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