It’s probably safe to say that today has been a surprising day in the Barclays Premier League and this afternoon’s match at Villa Park didn’t disappoint. If you’re a neutral that is. Fulham fans may feel slightly aggrieved by starting the match on the back foot thanks to John Pantsil’s record-equalling 3rd own goal of the season. Villa fans, meanwhile, may have been disappointed by their team giving a way a lead not once but twice. Whether either team actually deserved to win the game I’m not sure.
The first half was pretty scrappy with a couple of chances for Villa. Pantsil’s error came from attempting to clear a Downing shot in the 13th minute and Darren Bent had a goal disallowed for offside. That was it for the half really. Fulham were sloppy, there were a few too many silly mistakes and not enough chances. Hardly any in fact. I think Sidwell had a shot that went literally centimeters wide but otherwise the attacking force that have seemed so adventurous in the past few weeks were much quieter.
What a difference 20 minutes and a Sparky half-time chat makes. The boys in White came out determined to fight and it seemed to shock the Villa players somewhat. Seven minutes into the second half Sidwell takes another shot which is blocked by Friedel but Andy Johnson leaps and heads it past him into the goal, much to the delight of the home fans. Two substitutions followed; Pantsil comes off for Salcido to come on, pushing Baird to his favoured right hand side; with Davies replacing Duff five minutes later. Tactical? Probably. Neither were having a great game, although neither of their replacements set the pitch alight. It was that sort of game.
Credit where it’s due though, Villa’s second (first really) after 72 minutes was well deserved. Defender Kyle Walker latches on to a ball in the middle of the park, moves towards goal and shoots from 20 yards out tucking it past Schwarzer. A good goal, even if Gatesy reckoned it took a bit of a deflection on the way in. Fulham stepped up the pressure on the Villa defence; more shots from Sidwell, some lovely turns from Dembele and Andy Johnson and Dempsey making a bit of a nuisance of themselves. And boy did it pay off, with Dempsey using his bonce to good effect once again and firing the ball past Friedel twelve minutes from time, taking his season’s tally into double figures. A late strike from AJ didn’t quite make it into the net and Villa managed to effectively clear a couple of late Fulham corners ensuring a share of the spoils.
Not the finest display of recent weeks but a point is not to be sniffed at. We’re 12th in the league with some tricky games coming up. The performances, both individual and team, are coming together and there’s comfort to be had from that. Besides, we beat Spurs last week *chuckles*.