I’m afraid I have to apologise again for the lack of updates. I’ve had to concentrate my efforts on finding some long-term employment of late in these economically tricky times so I’ve been a little neglectful of our little humble abode here.
It hasn’t helped that there hasn’t be too much cheerful news to report of late. The defeat at West Brom could have been predicted – the manner of our meek away surrender was certainly similar to our defeat at Blackburn and was all the more frustrating for the fact that we’d made plenty of chances in a bright first half.
Hodgson made a change that I didn’t agree with – bringing in Clint Dempsey for the suspended Andy Johnson (you could almost hear the groans and cries for Erik Nevland as soon as the teamsheets had been read out!) – but in fairness to the manager Dempsey was probably our most effective performer, which isn’t exactly high praise.
He started in the hole behind Zamora, whose impact upon the game was minimal, although how much of that can be attributed to ‘flu is open to question. The American – the subject of much speculation about his future of late – posed problems to the Baggies from there, striking several shots from distance, and had he been a little more composed in front of goal we might well have gone in front.
The lack of a contribution from the rest of the midfield is now becoming a sore point. Bullard looked as if he was trying to hard – three passes went astray in the first seven minutes, two of them going out of play without a team-mate in sight, and whilst his radar has always been a little intermittent on account of him playing the adventurous pass, this scattergun approach can make him a little bit of a liability. Especially if Murphy isn’t his usual, calm, understated self, which he wasn’t here. A switch of tempo and tactics from Tony Mowbray at half-time once again highlighted just how lightweight our midfield can be.
Games like these are ones we should have been targeting for three points and to lose is exceptionally frustrating. Had Ishmael Miller been a little more effective in front of goal we might have already been behind and our vulnerability at set pieces had been illustrated by Ryan Donk rattling the woodwork just before Roman Bendnar reacted quickest to the loose ball bouncing around inside the six-yard box to score the crucial opening goal.
We never looked like rising to find an equaliser even though Bullard flashed an instant reply just wide from a cleverly worked quick free-kick and, despite things looking a little more lively, when Seol (the scapegoat) came on late in the second half, there was an inevitability about our defeat.
Plenty of criticism has come Roy’s way in the week or so since that result. Some of it deserved – for his choice of starting line-up, the seemingly chronic inability to spot a weakness or make a change before it is too late and his selection of certain players – and some of it, alleging that Roy is out of his depth or has lost his mind, borders on the offensive. This was a man remember who, yes with his fair share of luck, engineered our remarkable escape from a position where most of us had resigned ourselves to Championship football.
The task now, especially with the money that Fayed had sunk into the club to improve the squad over the summer, is to avoid another long, hard relegation battle. At the moment, success looks unlikely. With the continued good start that Hull are enjoying and the stubborn refusal of the other promoted sides to become whipping boys as has been the case in recent seasons, we are looking at being sucked into an unappetising fight for survival.
If that’s the case, we’ll just have to show more stomach for the fight. Starting with Sunderland on Saturday. We left ourselves with so much to do at the tail of last season, that it required title-winning form to keep us afloat. We simply can’t afford to make the same mistake twice.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Carson; Zuiverloon, Donk, Olsson; Robinson, Morrison (Cech 79), Koren, Greening, Borja Valero; Miller (Moore 64), Bednar. Subs (not used): Kiely, Hoefkens, Barnett, MacDonald, Pele.
BOOKED: Olsson, Borja Valero.
GOAL: Bednar (61).
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Pantsil (Stoor 82), Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Davies, Gera, Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen 87); Dempsey; Zamora (Seol Ki-Hyeon 71). Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Kallio, Baird.
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).