This is a guest post by Jack Turner
OK, so it might no longer but the festive season, but the thought still holds. It was a brilliant day in all respects at Hillsborough yesterday and the boys did us proud by sneaking a late winner to send a good turnout of Fulham fans home very happy indeed.
I have to admit that when I crawled out of bed at 5am in order to get to the London terminuses to catch my train up to Sheffield I was wondering why I was doing this. It was cold and I was knackered whilst my flatmate had just dragged himself home from a ‘banging’ night of clubbing. I hadn’t been to Sheffield since I had a look round the steel city when I was deciding where I was going to university so I was keen to see the place where I could have spent three years drinking and partying again. As it turned out, I did too much drinking to have a real look around but the locals were very friendly (as it isn’t the case in some of these places, yes, I’m looking at you, Stoke) and the pubs were excellent.
I’d had some lovely pub grub before what was actually a more desperate sprint to the ground than we’d planned. I stayed on in the pub for a few more beers (continually convincing myself than one more couldn’t do any harm) and than realised at 2.30pm just how far away from Hillsborough we were. There was an awful moment when I thought I might be sick as we tore through some side streets but fortunately it passed without incident.
The Fulham fans were in fine voice and, as I said before, travelled in great numbers. A few old faces had come out of the woodwork for one of those great Cup awaydays. It was nice to be playing at a proper stadium with some real history for a change, rather than one of those drab platic bowls that seem to pass for top flight grounds these days. I often feel it must make a real difference for the boys to see a good thousand or so fans had made the journey to cheer them on and they certainly seemed to appreciate our support yesterday afternoon.
I was pleased that Roy had selected a fairly strong side. It was good to have another look at Stoor because I can’t have been the only one who would have assumed that he was bought as our first-choice right back. Again, he wasn’t terribly impressive but I’m willing to give the guy time as he’s hardly played any football for us this season. It was about time we saw Julian Gray to make a decision as to whether we’d be a useful long-term acquisition and I’m afraid, on this evidence, the answer has to be no. And Dickson Etuhu got a chance to game some more games under his belt in the absence of Jimmy Bullard. Dickon’s most memorable moment came at 1-1: a fierce 25-yarder that shook the crossbar. What a way that would have been to get off the mark.
The talk about whether Bullard was really ill or just preparing for a transfer rumbled on; I took most of it for the tittle tattle that it really is. I wouldn’t imagine Roy would leave Jimmy out if he really was fit.
The game itself was a very entertaining spectacle. We were nearly behind in the early stages when Mark Schwarzer had to be alert to keep out two shots from Jermaine Johnson in quick succession. A Wednesday fan in the pub later said that if they’d played a half-decent centre forward instead of JJ then they might have been in the draw for the Fourth Round instead of us. He wasn’t wrong.
It was lovely to see us score away from home and it was a beautifully crafted goal too. Danny Murphy spotted a gap in the defence that few others could have seen – and then delicately threaded the ball through it too – and Andy Johnson gave the lie to the idea that he was down on confidence by sliding the ball past the advancing goalkeeper. 1-0. Thank you very much.
That could have been the cue for Wednesday to crumble, but they did no such thing. I see that Brian Laws had called his bench ‘a creche’ because of the number of kids on it but his patched-up side were really up for it. None more than the left-back Tommy Spurr, whose spectacular equaliser came from absolutely nothing. I’m not sure you can blame anybody because it wouildn’t really occur to close down a left back who hardly ever scores from the best part of 30 yards whilst Mark Schwarzer could do nothing as, looking at the highlights this morning, the ball definitely moved in the air on its way past him.
The equaliser seemed to unsettle us and, for a while, it seemed like we’d be in for another frustrating away day. Had Johnson not managed to miss from a corner when it seemed easier to score we might have been. Clint Dempsey perhaps should have scored with a header and Erik Nevland definitely should have buried his shot rather than blasting over. Not to worry, though, because Nevland drifted out to the right, played in a low cross and Johnson was there to pounce from close range. A rather portly young man, who was very friendly for the rest of the afternoon, leapt onto my back in celebration and we hit the pub afterwards in fine spirits.
An away win remains a precious commodity but it is beautiful nonetheless. Let’s home this can give us real confidence for the Premier League games we face in the new year on the road. Who do I want in the next round? I’d be up for another away trip to be honest.