Hands up who went to Wigan on a huge high after the Stoke game, thinking we might take all three points?
Me too. Nearly.
It was my first trip to the DW Stadium and actually I rather enjoyed myself. It’s quite a sweet little ground really, it feels almost like a toy stadium. All small and compact with the steepest stands so that I felt I was almost hovering over the goal. The home fans are a pleasant bunch too – and I mean that with no sarcasm. Having experienced some pretty hostile environments already this season, it was a refreshing change to experience a good bit of light-hearted banter with the songs.
The game didn’t disappoint either. Or certainly the second half didn’t. The first half was all a bit… meh. There didn’t seem to be many chances taken by either team (only 3 on target) and the shots that were made seemed tame, almost cautious, like the players were a bit too afraid to get stuck in.
The second half was much livelier, with Rodallega scoring for the hosts soon after the restart. Not sure about his celebration or the music blaring out of the speakers to be honest. Still, horses for courses… Whether the goal prompted Mark Hughes to make a change or whether he’d already decided, I’m not sure but off came the previous week’s Hattrick Hero Diomansy Kamara who in my mind hadn’t had the greatest game up to that point. In his place came Dembele who set to work straight away, getting in and amongst the Wigan defence. No shots though, according to the Guardian chalkboards. Interesting.
A possible penalty shout follows then Hughes decides enough is enough, more firepower is needed. Despite being the better team for the thirty minutes that had passed in the second half, Fulham found themselves a goal behind. The visiting fans were getting restless and singing for Gera. They got Andy Johnson. You can’t argue with the logic of bringing on a striker rather than a midfielder but AJ hadn’t quite found his form. It took him four minutes. And a great pass from Clint Dempsey (who had himself just knocked the ball into the net, albeit with his hand). Al-Habsi got a hand to it but couldn’t guide it out of its path to the back of the net. All of a sudden we were drawing, five minutes from time and AJ had scored his first goal in nearly two years. He was so happy he leaped into the stand to celebrate with us – Rodallega should take note.
To be honest the remaining few minutes passed in a bit of a blur of mad tweeting and even madder clock-watching so the relief when at the final whistle was palpable. For much of the match it seemed like things weren’t going our way so to go away with a point was a reasonable outcome. The team’s performance was more promising though, perhaps we have finally turned that corner. We’ve made life very difficult for ourselves with the dodgy start but with more performances like that, and a few more goals from AJ et al, we might just be safe for another season.