Eyebrows were raised when Andy Johnson moved to Fulham in the summer. Not just because Everton were willing to let him go, but also as the Cottagers shelled out a hefty fee to capture the former England international who wasn’t pulling up too many trees at Goodison Park. Johnson’s Fulham career has been fitful so far, afflicted by injuries and being sent off in his debut against West Ham, but it finally got going at Craven Cottage last night as he scored his first goals for the club in a 2-0 win over Wigan.
The first of Johnson’s brace was also the 100th league goal of his career. Fulham didn’t have to wait long to add more misery to Wigan’s week after they were thrashed 4-0 by Aston Villa at the weekend, even though Steve Bruce had tinkered with his team, dropping Titus Bramble, who was considered responsible for some of the defensive lapses. It mattered little tonight as Fulham went ahead through a well-constructed move in the tenth minute.
Bobby Zamora fed the maurauding Paul Konchesky, powering down the left, and full back’s low cross was gratefully converted by Johnson at the near post as the visitors appealed in vain for an offside flag. Johnson’s delight was clear as he is keen to justify the faith Roy Hodgson has shown in him, by paying around £8m for his services, with additional clauses related to future performances, which is far less than the £10m flat fee that has been widely reported. Still, it’s a significant outlay for a Fulham side accustomed to tightening their belts down by the Thames in recent seasons and Johnson will be keen to get amongst the goals.
He was almost in again moments later. This time Zoltan Gera was the provided as he nicked the ball past Emmerson Boyce and sent in a threatening cross. Johnson looked odds-on to add a second, but the ball was scrambled away from danger by a rattled Wigan defence. Fulham continued to control possession, but Bruce’s side eventually came into the game. Maynor Figueroa’s speculative shot from long range whistled just wide, which was clearly a little too close for comfort for Mark Schwarzer, and the Australian goalkeeper was right to heed the warning signs.
The Latics should have equalised afterwards when the dangerous Amr Zaki, who has so lit up the league in the early months of the season, skipped away from the attentions of Fulham defenders and sent over a deep cross. The Egyptian’s centre should easily had been headed home by Paul Scharner and the Austrian’s reaction to inexplicably missing the target from a couple of yards sat it all.
After that miss, Fulham were happy to get into half-time still with their narrow advantage intact. The second half brought more home pressure and Gera was unfortunate not to extend their lead just three minutes after the break when the Hungarian’s instinctive shot flicked the outside of the post from six yards. Fortunately, Fulham were not left to rue that miss for too long, when Johnson poached his second of the evening.
A foul on Brede Hangeland, making a burst from the back, gave Fulham a free-kick which the alert Jimmy Bullard took quickly. Wigan were caught cold as Bullard spotting Johnson moving into familiar territory on the shoulder of the last defender. He showed considerable strength to hold off the challenge of Scharner and then slipped the ball effortlessly under Chris Kirkland as the goalkeeper came off his line. That settled the contest and Johnson was afforded a loud, standing ovation when he was replaced late on by Erik Nevland. Hodgson professed himself quite happy with Fulham’s standing afterwards, as his side now have eleven points from nine games. There’s a sense that things could be looking up by the Thames.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Murphy, Bullard (Baird 89), Davies, Gera (Dempsey 73); Zamora, A. Johnson (Nevland 90). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Andreasen, Gray.
GOALS: A. Johnson (11, 60).
WIGAN ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Figueroa (Koumas 63) Boyce, Scharner; Palacios (Camara 81), Cattermole (de Ridder 81), Valencia, Kilbane; Heskey, Zaki. Subs (not used): Pollitt, Taylor, Bramble, Brown.
BOOKED: Kilbane, Cattermole.
REFEREE: Howard Webb (Yorkshire).