This is a guest post by Jack Turner
Since Dan’s been incredibly busy the last couple of weeks and decided not to brave the cold all the way up to Everton (which now looks like a very wise decision), I thought I’d fill in our reader(s) on events at Goodison Park.
Only the most devout Fulham fans would have travelled to Everton with much expectation of anything other than a defeat. We’ve lost all seven of our Premier League games on that ground – and we managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory in the FA Cup in 2004. Plus the late point we earned at Portsmouth was our first on the road since we ended last season in such glorious style away from home.
I could give you a line-by-line, minute-by-minute assesment of our performance but I reckon if you wanted a conventional report there are plenty of places you could find it. I wasn’t actually as downbeat as the rest of the people in our train carriage bound for London after the game for the simple reason that there was a lot to applaud about our play. Whilst Everton had the better of the game in the first half (we went through a spell where they hit the post and delivered a succession of threatening crosses), I thought we were more impressive after the break than I’ve seen from a Fulham side this season.
There was much talk afterwards about the Zamora/Johnson partnership, although why there was so much consternation I’m not entirely sure. Looking at his record, I don’t think Bobby is a prolific goalscorer – and there’s more to his game than just finding the net. He didn’t have the best game for us on Saturday but his flick-on did lead to the free-kick that produced our best chance of the afternoon and he was incredibly unlucky to see his shot come back off the post.
The midfield was a lot more disciplined than in previous weeks. Simon Davies might not be reproducing the kind of form he showed last season but he’s a good outlet to have down the right. I know Dan feels that Gera is still being played out of position on the left, but he continues to get into goalscoring positions. I gather that Andy Gray reckoned Zoltan should have scored with the header from the corner, but I felt he did well to meet it so convincingly having come through the crowd. Sooner or later, he needs to start finding the net.
Defensively, barring the one late lapse of course, we were solid. Credit must go to Aaron Hughes, the much-maligned centre-back who was blamed for much of last year’s sloppiness, but is probably our player of the season so far (although how much of an accolade that is) I’ll leave you to judge. Two brief points about Saha’s goal – it just had to be him, didn’t it? Firstly, both Konchesky and Johnson were far too half-hearted in trying to close the cross down. We’d pretty much settled for a point by this stage but standing off Osman like that allowed him the freedom to whip in such a quality ball. What was Hangeland doing in the centre? He wandered off to the near post leaving Hughes with two Everton forwards to mark. And those who have scoffed at Schwarzer’s attempt to save need to remember how he’s bailed out before this season.
We were close that elusive point at Goodison but close doesn’t get you anything. A pattern seems to be emerging that the opposition scores late goals against us, but more concerning is the fact that their substitutions seem to have a direct impact on the result. I actually think that bringing on Chris Baird to sit in midfield was the right change by Roy for that situation and don’t share the gloom and doom that’s going around. But it’s pretty clear that the forthcoming home games against Newcastle and Spurs are massive.
EVERTON (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Arteta, Osman, Fellaini (Saha 61), Pienaar (Anichebe 76), Cahill; Yakubu (Vaughan 84). Subs (not used): Nash, Hibbert, Baines, Rodwell.
GOAL: Saha 87
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes; Bullard (Baird 83), Murphy, Davies (Nevland 89), Gera (Dempsey 88); Johnson, Zamora. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Andreasen.
REFEREE: Lee Mason (Lancashire).