With the Fulham defensive unit on the receiving end of some fierce criticism recently, Alain Goma was pleased that Sunday’s battling performance against the aerial challenge of Everton went some way to answering the critics.
“I think we were much better defensively,” he said, speaking at Motspur Park this week. “We did concede another goal from a set-piece, but apart from that I thought we did quite well. We need to approach every game now with the same spirit and make sure we carry on battling the way we did at Everton.”
To say the defence has been unsettled recently is something of an understatement – Jerome Bonnissel has been out injured for several weeks with both Jon Harley and Adam Green deputising; Carlos Bocanegra has come in to make his debut; Moritz Volz returned to Arsenal for a couple of weeks with Martin Djetou stepping in; Andy Melville has moved to West Ham; and of course Goma has only just come back from injury himself. He conceded that it hasn’t been the best of circumstances for the team to try and put some consistent form together.
“It’s always easier if you are used to playing with those around you,” said Goma. “If you have played together for a while you have a much better understanding of what the others will do. And when you are out for a while as I was, it takes time to find your movement again, to judge the ball properly and to effectively deal with the strikers.
“When you have somebody new next to you, even if he’s a top player, it still takes a bit of time to get used to each other.
“We worked a lot on set-pieces over the last week. We had to deal with quite a few at Everton and we coped pretty well – until the last minute. So I suppose you could say that’s half a positive for us!”
Manager Chris Coleman described the last minute goal that gave Everton the draw as a kick in the teeth. Goma was equally frustrated by the goal, but insisted that Fulham can approach the replay confident of progressing into the Fifth Round.
“We were very, very disappointed,” he said. “We had quite a few opportunities to kill the game on the counter-attack but we didn’t do it. It’s a shame to have worked so hard and then to concede a goal like that right in the last minute.
“I think we did enough to win the game, and I think we deserved to have done so.
“At home there’s no doubt that we can beat them. It’s going to be a tough game again – they play a lot of long balls so we’re going to have to work very hard at the back and prepare ourselves for lots of challenges.
“But it’s a good opportunity for us to keep our Cup run going and if we can keep it going and get a bit further it would be a very good thing for the Club.”
Goma smiled at the prospect of facing up to striker Duncan Ferguson yet again.
“It will be another battle,” he said. “But here in England we are used to that – there are a lot of big strikers who are very physical and very good in the air – so we just have to make sure that we stand up strong to that challenge.”
Goma admitted that it’s been a difficult season for him so far. Injuries have prevented the big Frenchman from hitting the consistent form that established him as one of the division’s best defenders over the last two seasons, but he believes it will come.
“I think that physically I’m not at my best yet,” he said. “I need to get a few more games under my belt to get my best rhythm back, but I think that once we’ve all settled down and got our games going we’ll have a very good finish to the season.”