My take on the Fulham reserve player performances from tonights match against Birmingham:
Etheridge: Good saves when called upon, commanded his area well, and distribution was excellent. Impressed me when I last saw him against Kingstonian in a pre-season game some eighteen months ago; delighted to see that he has progressed further.
Stoor: Showed keenness to go forward and to attack, but looked uncomfortable when players were running at him. Made some bizarre (and very poor) decisions in dangerous areas. I can see why Hodgson prefers to play Kelly. Was really hoping that Stoor would impress me tonight. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
Toure: Certainly has all the raw attributes to be a good central defender. He’s a big lad, with a fair amount of pace. Good in the air, made some good tackles too, including one superb last ditch sliding tackle to deny Phillips. Apparently this was only his second start for the Reserves. Very impressive, certainly more so than Pierre when I saw him against Arsenal in November.
Briggs: Just class. Good in the air and on the ground; quick; shepherded the ball out of play well. Excellent on the ball – not only good distribution, but a couple of runs upfield too, one of which forced a smart save from Doyle. There was a man in the stands in a Chelsea tracksuit. I just hope he wasn’t there to try and poach Briggs. We won’t miss Smalling too much if Briggs continues his development.
Marsh-Brown: Started off at left-back, and didn’t really look too comfortable there. Much too right-footed to link up effectively with Buchtmann on the flank. Looked a lot better when switched to the right wing in the second half. Great pace and dribbling ability, frightening the life out of the Birmingham defence. I definitely think this boy has a future, but must be played on the right. Unless he was played there to try and improve his left-foot (which failed anyway, as he barely used it except for standing on).
Brown: Worked hard, didn’t waste the ball, and looked to attack. Reminds me a fair bit of a slower version of Riise actually, with the only other difference being that Riise like to go wide and cross the ball, whilst Brown likes to cut into more central areas and shoot. Frequently swapped positions with Hoesen and played behind Okaka, and showed some nice touches. I don’t think he can play CM in the first team (to the level of Murphy or even Greening), and unfortunately he’s no better than what we have in the wide areas. Hope he makes it though.
Dikagcoi: Really impressed me tonight. Won the ball well, and showed some of his expansive passing range with some cracking passes to the front two and the wide men, and also recycled the ball well in tighter areas. Still prone to making needless gaffes though, and sometimes chooses a very silly option in dangerous areas, but could certainly make a difference in our first team. Would very much like to see what he can do alongside Murphy. Has all the physical attributes of Etuhu, but with Baird’s passing.
[Replaced on the hour mark by left back Alex Smith, who looked more comfortable there than Marsh-Brown, and dealt very well with the impressive Nathan Redmond. Smith went to LB, Marsh-Brown to RM, and Brown to LM.]
Milsom: This boy really impresses me every time I see him play. Excellent pressuring in midfield, won the ball well, and distributed it nicely. Have now seen him play at left-back, left-wing and centre-midfield, and he looks comfortable all over the park. Such a shame he suffered such a nasty injury after he made his debut at Old Trafford last season, as Hodgson said he was heavily knocking on the first-team door at the time. Next year is a big one for him, but I think he can be a valuable and versatile squad member.
Buchtmann: Certainly has talent. Nippy player, with excellent pace and dribbling skills. Reminds me of a young Damien Duff at times actually. Likes to cut into central areas as well. With both him and Brown fond of this, I wonder if there would be benefit in playing them on their “reverse flanks”, much in the way that Duff and Dempsey are utilised in the first team. If we got him as cheaply as reported, we got one hell of a bargain. Less effective when moved to CM after the departure of Dikagcoi.
Hoesen: Quick and certainly has some excellent ball skills. One particular highlight was when Hoesen nutmegged two Birmingham players in succession, in the space of about three seconds. Composed finish. Replaced soon after Dikagcoi by the equally rapid Stefan Payne, who closed down defenders well, but other than one snapshot, didn’t really have any chances.
Okaka: A class above everybody else on the pitch. Certainly the strongest. Shrugged tacklers away, so difficult to dispossess. Equally adept at running off the shoulder of the last defender as he is dropping deep and linking up play. Looks more comfortable than he did at the start of his spell – whether that’s to do with Hodgson’s training or simply settling into a foreign culture, he’s clearly improved. Would like to see him get more game time with the first team in the future.