Three games in six days was always going to be very tough. To emerge from perhaps our most testing week of the season unbeaten is a credit to Roy and boys. To preserve that record despite being 2-0 down at Manchester City is quite simply sensational.
Cast away any lingering feelings of disappointment about Roma’s late, late equaliser on Thursday night. You’ve every reason to be very proud of Fulham. As Alan Hansen said on MOTD2 last season, a few years ago we would have lost that game. But Hodgson doesn’t allow his players to stop playing or give up hope. Perhaps that belief has been injected into the side by virtue of that remarkable win at Eastlands a couple of years ago – but the fightback yesterday afternoon showed bags of character.
It’s easy to dwell on the chances we missed, especially the sitter that Bobby Zamora inexplicably blazed over the bar. Watching it again, I can how it will be more ammunition for those on the messageboards who believe he’s both a waste of money and a waste of time. They’ll conveniently ignore that he was outstanding again yesterday; giving Toure and Lescott a torrid time and his lovely little chest back to Damien Duff was arguably the spark that brought us back into the game. He’ll do a bit more work on his finishing in training this week – perhaps just in time to bang on in against Liverpool on Saturday. He’s had just as good a week as Fulham – certainly he was man of the match in the first two games.
Praise too for the midfield. Damien Duff certainly provides something extra from a wide position and you can see why Roy was keen to sign him. Where sometimes we were a little reluctant to shoot from the edge of the box, Duff has no qualms. His efforts on Monday night led to the first goal for Zamora and he scored against City from on the edge of the area. If he can stay fit and firing, Duff will be another astute signing from Roy.
Clint Dempsey came back into the side and did very well on the opposite side. His break seemingly refreshed him and he was unfortunate not to score on a couple of occassions. That seems to be the tale of his season so far, but Clint is another one who doesn’t know when to give up. He provided more questions about the international quality of Joleon Lescott by outjumping the central defender at Jonathan Greening’s free-kick and somehow squeezing the header inside the far post.
It is credit to Chris Baird and Jonathan Greening that we didn’t miss our regular central midfield partnership too much. Greening was excellent once again, popping up all over the place with a clever pass or two and smart enough to settle things down with a simple bit of keep ball when Fulham hadn’t seen the ball for a real. Baird’s really grown into this central midfield role and it would be very harsh to drop him now. He’s got a great engine and terrific distribution and was unlucky not to score yesterday. Shame on those who singled him out for such abuse when things weren’t going so well.
It goes without saying that our well-drilled defence were magnificent again. You could quibble about the disorganisation that allowed Lescott to find such space a yard out for City’s first, but that was largely down to the pinball that had preceded the chance. There was little we could do about the brilliant move that led to Petrov’s goal, but once again Hughes and Hangeland were outstanding. City were bound to get chances given the fluidity of the football, but the back four stood firm. A special word too for Stephen Kelly, harshly sent off in the week, who I felt had a splendid game at left back. He even got forward to good effect and swung over the cross that led to Duff’s goal, which was so vital in restoring Fulham’s belief.