This is a guest post by Jack Turner
I got on one of the early trains up to Anfield with my friend Steve. Steve was ridiculously excited for an away game. Perhaps it was because he’s been out of the country for most of the last four years working as a political consultant in America. He’s kept well informed so we didn’t need to remind him of our wretched away record but his early morning enthusiasm seemed out place given our destination: we hadn’t won at Liverpool in 27 visits.
I could have told you that the run was about to be extended. What I didn’t predict was that we’d draw with Liverpool. Note that I didn’t put that we would hold Liverpool. Because we didn’t. Normally, on these occasions the lesser fancied side puts ten man behind the ball and frustrates the opposition. But this wasn’t a rearguard action. We came to play football – and had we had a little bit more luck could have got the lead our first half display merited. The much-maligned Zamora was in superb form up front (I nearly spat out my corn flakes this morning when the Liverpool fan featured in The Observer reckoned that Agger had him in his pocket. Where was Agger when he burst onto a loose ball and surged down the left? A brilliant feint to cross fooled Mascherano and Jimmy, often seranaded by the travelling black and white army, nearly found a way past Reina. The Spanish keeper would have thanked his lucky stars that AJ hooked his shot straight into his midruff early on.
The second half was a bit more what we expected when we booked our tickets. Stout defending as the red wave came forward. But credit to the boys we barely put a foot wrong. Hangeland and Hughes were immense, keeping Torres and Keane ridiculosuly quiet, although not as subdued as the Anfield crowd. Credit must go to the rest of the defence. Schwarzer flung himself directly into harm’s way to prevent Keane from scoring in the first half (like Mark Crossley at Newcastle, he took a ball in the face for his trouble) and produced a fine reaction save from Kuyt.
Our full backs were often heading towards our own goal rather than getting forward in support of the midfield, but John Paintsil and Konchesky Paul deserve a mention. Paintsil is obviously a crowd favourite but the way he reacted to that naughty elbow from Torres right in front of us towards the end – I notice it hasn’t been mentioned by anybody in the media – with disdain and almost ignorance typified our gutsy display.
As we entered the closing minutes, but my man Steve was urging us to go forward – apparently forgetting that we’ve conceded away from home late on far too often for Roy’s liking. He was on top form in the pubs and the one miserable excuse for a club we ended up in last night, telling people that he’d just witnessed the performance of the year. He’s usually one for overstatement but, factoring in our appalling record at Anfield, I’m inclined to agree.
I would have taken a point heading to Anfield but, as Dan suggested yesterday, it will mean nothing if we don’t build on it. Judging by their performance in the late game last night, Aston Villa next week will be another stern test. Rightly, though, the boys will head up to Birmingham full of confidence. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we’re on the brink of a brave new dawn, but it’s nice to be a Fulham fan right now.
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Arbeloa, Fabio Aurelio, Carragher, Agger; Lucas, Mascherano (Alonso 64), Kuyt (El Zhar 81), Riera (Babel 78); Keane, Torres. Subs (not used): Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Benayoun.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Panstil, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes; Murphy, Bullard (Baird 93), Dempsey (Gera 84), Davies; Zamora, Johnson. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Kallio, Gray, Nevland.
REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).