Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Sunday January 13 2008
I started to pen this match report yesterday but became engulfed by disappointment by the fact that once again we`d let a lead slip. However, life goes on and certain things have to be said.
With twenty-two games gone we`ve amassed a meagre fifteen points, we`re currently five points clear of safety or two wins, two wins being all that we`ve managed so far this season. We`ve changed our manager and he`s been promised funds to turn our fortune around but time is running out and to cap it all we face Arsenal next weekend, a fixture we can`t really expect to get anything out of. Times are getting desperate; a reality check would suggest that we`re doomed.
However, at Upton Park yesterday in Roy Hodgson`s third game in charge, his first away from home, there were encouraging signs, signs that, to be perfectly honest, would indicate that we`ve been unlucky but have we not been saying that all season?
For the fixture at Upton Park the team had the usual look about it, solid and set out to play 4-4-2. The team started the game well with David Healy finding Clint Dempsey with a neat pass early on, sadly Dempsey couldn`t keep his shot down and it cleared the bar.
However, after eight minutes, Fulham who hadn`t won on the road in the Premier League for over a year, had the temerity to take the lead. A free kick was won out wide on the left and there appeared to be very little danger when Simon Davies delivered a ball into the area. Incredibly, everyone left it and it drifted, past Robert Green, into the far corner, for only our seventh away goal of the season.
Perhaps, scoring so early was the mistake we made, perhaps opening the scoring eight minutes form the end might have been the better option. Sadly, with thirteen minutes on the clock, Carlos Bocanegra picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Aaron Hughes. However, West Ham were not causing us any major problems and we looked to be comfortable until one moment of skill from the ex-Arsenal player, Freddy Ljungberg, opened us up.
Ljungberg skipped past Paul Konchesky on the right flank and his cross was met by Dean Ashton whose flicked header left Anti Niemi with no chance. Twenty-eight minutes on the clock and we`re all square, would a point suffice?
West Ham were now getting on top as the East End crowd roared them on. Matthew Etherington started to cause problems on the opposite flank to Ljungberg and one cross met by the head of Ashton saw Anti Niemi produce a magnificent save to turn his goal bound effort on to the cross bar.
Niemi`s goal was coming under increasing pressure and the keeper did well to save low down as Carlton Cole nearly put West Ham in front. With half time approaching, Niemi produced another fine save denying Ashton (again) and Roy Hodgson would have been pleased to get his team in with the scores level.
Fulham, just like in the first half, started the second half well but once the game settled into any sort of pattern it was obvious that the home side were the more likely to score next. A header form Cole had to be scuffed away at the far post by Konchesky before Matthew Upson headed wide when it looked easier to score.
Sitting amongst the away following, I hoped that we could hang on but with sixty nine minutes on the clock the home side finally breached the defence. The goal had a lot to say for never giving up on a ball that looked as if it was going out of play. Whilst the Fulham defence dithered, Noble kept the ball in and contrived to cross for Anton Ferdinand, of all people, to guide the ball past Niemi with his boot.
At 2-1 Fulham had it all to do and Hodgson tried to change matters by introducing Jimmy Bullard, who received a standing ovation from all four stands, for his first game since September 2006. However, despite a lot of huff and puff we streamed out of the ground reflecting on two late chances that could have rescued us a point, chances that involved Stefanovic and Baird.
Of the two Baird`s was probably the best but he just couldn`t keep his header below the bar.
Come on Roy spend some of Al Fayed`s cash mate, things are getting desperate and we need an injection of something to turn the season around.
Match Stats Click Here
Bouncing Bullard Back Click Here
Date:Sunday January 13 2008
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