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Milsom out for the season

Some sad news buried in the team news ahead of tomorrow’s game.

Young Robert Milsom, who got to play a few first-team minutes at Old Trafford the other week and has looked close to breaking into the first team of late, is out for the rest of the season after injuring his cruciate ligament.

Milsom, a graduate of the Fulham Academy, has looked impressive in the reserves this season and we can only hope that he recovers to fulfil his undoubted potential.

RTE also reckon that AJ will be fit to lead the line, which is excellent news.

UPDATE: So do the Daily Mail.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roy talking about Robert Milsom in his Arsenal preview video on the offal.

We lost a good player on Wednesday night … a really unfortunate injury to Robert Milsom. He has been unfortunate with injuries. He was playing very well, he was really making exceptional progress towards a place in the first team, made his debut against Manchester United. It was a cruel blow. A cruel blow, first and foremost for him, but also for us as a club to lose him and really we can’t afford to lose that many more because we have got a very small squad of players.

Reserves thump Arsenal

It’s appropriate that as our thoughts turn towards this Saturday’s trip to the Emirates the reserves put in a sparkling performance to beat their Arsenal counterparts at Motspur Park tonight.

There was plenty to interest the watching Roy Hodgson, who saw the likes of Diomansy Kamara and Giles Barnes take some crucial steps on the road to regaining match fitness. Kamara got through 80 minutes whilst Barnes, who has yet to feature for the first team since joining from Derby on loan, played the whole game.

The Whites shaded a fairly even first half and made their quality count in the second half. Adam Watts fired in from close range after a goalmouth scramble to give Fulham the lead before a lovely left-wing move saw Kamara double Fulham’s lead. Julian Gray delivered an inviting cross which Kamara had no hesitation in converting.

Barnes himself added a delightful third when he chipped a stranded Arsenal ‘keeper after outjumping his man to win the ball just before the hour mark.

The victory takes Fulham into second place in the reserves’ league as the boys took Fulham advantage of Chelsea’s defeat at Stoke. This Arsenal blog was generous in their praise of the Fulham side.

FULHAM RESERVES: Stockdale; Omozusi, Briggs, Watts, Smalling; Milsom (Harris 55), Saunders, Gray, Barnes; Brown; Kamara (Uwezu 80). Subs (not used): Foderingham, Laribi, Moscatiello.

ARSENAL RESERVES: Shea; Eastmond, Bartley, Cruise (Deacon 75), Nordtveit; Watt (Ayling 71), Wilshere, Randall, Bischoff; Sunu (Evina 45), Emmanuel-Thomas. Subs (not used): Ozyakup.

No disgrace

There’s no disgrace in going to Old Trafford and getting beaten.

I don’t buy the idea that the players just weren’t putting the effort in. From a distance, on a TV screen I guess it can look like that but you only have to look at the manner in which John Pantsil was aggressively throwing himself into tackles and how Tony Kallio stuck to his thankless task of trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet. The Finn’s performance at left back was one of the more pleasing parts of the evening.

We went there with a gameplan as well as with half an eye on our more winnable home games that are coming up. You can argue that we should have been a little more ambitious but the chances of us going at United and not conceding a cricket score would have been very slim. Chris Baird got a rare start as a holding midfielder – which he has earned through his impressive cameos earlier in the season – and didn’t do an awful lot wrong. The survival plan was always dependent on getting through the early stages unscathed and once Schwarzer’s juggling act allowed Scholes to score from the edge of the box we were always up against it.

Clint Dempsey might have scored with a header and that could have made things very interesting. It wasn’t until I saw it again this morning that I realised quite how close he came to finding the net. United bossed the midfield and there’s no shame in that. Scholes is a fantastic player and it was always a bit of a long shot to think that someone like Simon Davies, who is much better going towards the opposition’s goal tha his own, was going to be able to shut him down with enthusiasm alone.

We could bleat about the two penalties that might have been for handball but you’re unlikely to get a penalty at Old Trafford at the best of times. Much more of a concern is the lightweight nature of our midfield. Zoltan Gera’s been the biggest disappointment of the season for me – he came in and everybody had such high hopes. It’s not the usual signing Championship player thing, because he’s got the quality to play in the top flight and helped West Brom get there. Yes, he’s been played in plenty of different positions so far this season, but that doesn’t account for the almost laughable way he gets knocked off the ball. I’d much rather have seen young Wayne Brown or Robert Milsom get a go from the start because Gera’s looks woefully short on confidence at the moment. He’ll be lucky to make the bench on Sunday.

Turning our thoughts to the reasons why Roy picked the team he did, resting the likes of Dacourt, Johnson and Konchesky, have a look at the games to come. There’s not a lot of time between the West Brom and Swansea games for our players to recover. Maybe that points to the possibility of changes for the Cup replay, but I – for one – hope we take it seriously. The romance of our Cup run might have been diluted by the fact that should we overcome the Swans (which is no given) we’ll have to face United again, but on our day – especially at home – we should feel we can give anyone a game.

Our two home games after that our definitely winnable. Hull City – now without Jimmy Bullard – might have been found out a little in the Premier League and if we play as we know we can then we should back ourselves to avenge our opening day defeat at the KC Stadium. Blackburn will be a tough game, they’ll be physical and effective, and Big Sam will have them right up for it – but three wins against three of the sides who could be down there in the relegation scrap at the end of the season would go a long way to securing our own safety.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): van der Sar; O’Shea (Evans 62), Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic; Scholes, Carrick (Gibson 69), Ronaldo, Ji-Sung Park; Tevez, Berbatov (Rooney 61). Subs (not used): Kuszczak, Nani, Rafael Da Silva, Fletcher.

BOOKED: Park.

GOALS: Scholes (12), Berbatov (30), Rooney (63).

FULHAM (4-1-4-1): Schwarzer; Pantsil (Dacourt 67), Kallio, Hughes, Hangeland; Baird; Murphy (Milsom 80), Davies, Gera (Brown 86), Dempsey; Zamora. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Smalling.

BOOKED: Pantsil.

REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).

ATTENDANCE: 75,437

Plenty in reserve

Rich has a post up asking if people watched the reserve game against Chelsea last night. As it happens, I took advantage of a friend’s more expansive Sky selection and watched the game from the comfort of his living room rather than braving the cold and a journey – albeit brief – down to Griffin Park on a Monday night.

And I have to say, I was impressed. I was pretty critical of Billy McKinlay’s arrival at the club (for me, it was another example of the ‘jobs for the boys’ attitude that permeated the club under Coleman) and I was even less impressed when McKinlay took over the running of the reserves, especially as he had no previous coaching experience. Whilst it might seem like the perfect low-pressure environment for a recently retired player to learn the coaching ropes, I’d be pretty keen to see a seasoned coach take charge of the reserves, getting the blend between youth and experience right whilst ensuring that the boys played the right kind of football.

Hodgson kept McKinlay on and he seems to be doing a fine job. We seem to be giving some of the more promising youngsters an opportunity rather than using the reserves as a resting ground for those who aren’t getting a look in the first time picture. Of the team that played against Chelsea, only Andranik – who is still working his way back to match fitness – has featured in the first team this season. He looked very good playing at the base of an impressive midfield, which also featured Wayne Brown, who had an encouraging game as well, and certainly showed why he has been on the cusp of breaking into the first team since Hodgson took over.

It was nice to see Matthew Briggs, about whom I’ve only read good things since made a surprise appearance at Middlesbrough the other year, and Danny Hoesen, our young Dutch striker, who came off the bench. Aussie Adrian Leijer captained the side and capped an accomplished performance at centre back by heading home a lovely Brown free-kick from wide on the left to give us a deserved lead.

Fulham could feel mightily peeved that we didn’t come away with all three points as Chelsea offered little in the way of clear cut chances to test young Wes Foderingham and then, inexplicably, were awarded a generous penalty as attackers and defenders got a bit physical in jostling for position at a free-kick. Miroslav Stoch cheekily chipped home the penalty and I feared that our heads might drop, but – if anything – we finished the game the stronger. Indeed, Brown was exceedingly unlucky not to restore Fulham’s lead when Rhys Taylor tipped a fierce shot onto the crossbar and Andranik, on a couple of rare runs forward, might have done better with a couple of late efforts.

The most pleasing thing about watching the game was that the Hodgson imprint has certainly been left on our football at all levels. We looked after the ball with great care, passing it with pleasing confidence and patience. All the boys looked comfortable in possession and, going forward, we looked threatening, even if the finishing wasn’t all it could have been. Competing well against our rich – and yet underachieving neighbours – certainly bodes well for the future.

CHELSEA: Taylor; Ofori-Twumasi, van Aanholt, Mancienne (Saville 45), Magnay; Taiwo, Sawyer (Tabor 67), Smith, Tereja; Di Santo (F Ferreira 45), Stoch.

FULHAM: Foderingham: Cumber, Anderson, Leijer, Smalling; Milsom (Harris 90), Saunders, Andranik, Smith, Brown, Briggs (Hoesen 55).

Loan rangers

A couple of interesting loan deals have been concluded int the last couple of days.

Late last night it was confirmed that Southend have loaned our left winger Robert Milsom, an Academy graduate who made his first appearance in the otherwise forgettable defeat at Burnley. Milsom, 21, spent a month on loan at Griffin Park last season making six league appearances. He is expected to be back at the Cottage in January. Roy Hodgson has said the opportunity to play first-team football will be perfect for the youngster.

Our reserve team goalkeeper David Stockdale, signed from Darlington in the summer, has also been loaned out to see some first team action this time at Rotherham United. The Millers, struggling in League 2 after a points deduction, have put him straight in their squad for this afternoon’s game with Bradford as a replacement for the injured Andy Warrington. Manager Mark Robins said:

I’ve not brought Stockdale in to kick his heels on the bench.

There were a couple of teams after him and I am pleased he has chosen us.

It also seems like defender Gabriel Zakuani could be on his way out. He joined Peterborough United on a temporary basis at the start of the season, having spent last year at Championship promotion winners Stoke, and young manager Darren Ferguson is confident of tying up a long-term deal to bring Zakuani to the club.

The DR Congo centre-back hasn’t really had much of a look in since signing from Leyton Orient, for whom he impressed in our 2005 FA Cup third round defeat, and has been ridiculed on the TIFF website as being another example of Coleman’s misuse of the transfer funds he was given. That might be a bit harsh but £1m did seem a lot of money to pay for an unproven League 2 defender.

Football League rules prevent a deal being concluded until the transfer window so Zakuani will briefly return to Fulham but Ferguson was quoted in the Evening Standard as being confident that the deal is nearing completion.

Gabby’s agreed he’s going to sign permanently, we’ve just got to iron out a few things.

It’s a big signing for the club and shows where we want to go. He’s an out and out defender, but he also knows he can improve.