New Lows in Fulham Debacle
Tuesday 9th February 2010 @8pm Kick-Off
A few weeks ago we went down to Manchester United at Old Trafford 3-0. This was Brian Laws first game in charge and despite the defeat there were a number of positives to take from the match and we received a number of plaudits. The criticism was that we didn`t take our chances and Laws admitted himself that at times we were a little 'Gung-Ho` and had to tighten up in defence.
Well against Fulham at Craven Cottage last night we lost 3-0 again and the problem this time was that we didn`t create ANY chances and were in fact more 'dung-ho` than 'gung-ho` This match would be my candidate by far as our worst performance on the road in the Premier League this season even beating the recent frustrating game at the Reebok against Susan Boyle`s Bolton. We were woeful in defence, clueless in midfield and may as well have played 4-6-0 such was the ineffectiveness of both Fletcher and Nugent. This is simply not good enough and was so disappointing after the highs against West Ham on Saturday. We simply can`t string two good games together and you have to go back to August before we had back-to-back League wins (against Manchester United and Everton at Turf Moor). Disappointing is just one word but there are numerous other D words you could take from this mauling. Dross, dire, dreadful, diabolical, disaster...but you get the idea with that!
If this was a battle of tactical wits, Roy Hodgson had done his homework better than Laws. He certainly got his side to stifle any chances we tried to create with everything it seemed snuffed out by their defence. It looked like our only option was to shoot from distance and those attempts were few and far between and I don`t recall their keeper being properly tested all night. Things were not much better at the other end with Edgar in particular looking exposed at left back and Jensen having a poor night. The Beast seemed at fault with all the goals and had problems communicating with the back-four at times. It probably didn`t help also losing Cort to injury in the first half after just 32 minutes although that did allow Fox to go back into his more familiar left back position with Edgar now playing in the centre of defence. Eagles came on to replace Cort but again he seemed subdued and ineffective.
Our best spell if that`s what you can call it was probably the opening few minutes of the match when we seemed to have most of the possession but could not make any of it tell. Two Fulham goals in eight minutes virtually killed off our chances though when first Murphy put the Cottagers ahead on 23 minutes before Elm doubled their lead on 31 minutes. There was a suspicion of offside for both goals but Fulham deserved to be ahead based on our lacklustre performance.
In the second-half Fulham killed off the game when pesky Zamora scored their third goal from a direct free kick after 54 minutes
The defeat at Fulham means we drop one place to 16th but we could find ourselves back in the relegation zone tonight with Bolton and Portsmouth if both West Ham and Wolves win their home games against Birmingham and Spurs respectively. We now have a break until the 21st February with the FA Cup fifth round ties being played next Saturday and Laws is taking his squad to sunny climes for some team-bonding and training in Portugal. He will certainly need to shake them up after this very poor performance considering our next game is against Aston Villa at Villa Park. Villa currently in 7th spot are chasing a Top 4 finish and make no mistake about it, if we play against them like we did against Fulham we will be absolutely massacred.
The Clarets Team Sheet
Brian Laws according to Owls fans had a reputation at Sheffield Wednesday for selecting players out of their normal positions; he seems to be continuing that tradition with the Clarets! Danny Fox had been brought in we thought to tighten up our defence at left-back whereas David Edgar is more renown for being a centre back. It was perhaps surprising therefore that Laws decided to play Edgar at left-back a role he has played a couple of the times for the Clarets recently but play Fox in front of him on the left side of midfield. This was the only change Laws made to the eighteen he selected for our previous game against West Ham at Turf Moor last Saturday. Robbie Blake was the unfortunate casualty of the change and was dropped back to the bench. Chelsea loan midfielder, Jack Cork also had to be content with a place on the bench for his second game since arriving in the January window.
The line-up in summary was as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Edgar, Bikey, Elliott. McDonald, Fox, Nugent, Fletcher.
Subs: Weaver, Duff, Eagles, Cork, Blake, Thompson, Paterson
The Full Match Report
A cold night on the banks of the Thames was about to get even more bitter for Clarets fans as the match got underway. Steve Bennett was in charge of this match despite Chris Foy being the referee scheduled to referee the game. In the early stages of this match, the Clarets had most of the possession and looked most likely to score with Kevin McDonald in particular aided by Andre Bikey trying to get the engine room stoked-up to keep all Clarets fans warm and toasty. There were no real chances though and a familiar pattern on the road then began to develop as Fulham came back into the game. . A routing save by Jensen from a tame shot by Elms fell to Mears who under no real danger conceded a corner. The scene for nervousness and panic in the back four was now set and Fulham could sense things were swinging their way. All the pressure was now in our half and on 23 minutes the inevitable happened with the Cottagers taking the lead helped by some poor decisions by the linesman and referee. As a ball came over from Shorey, Elms looked to be in an offside position before heading down to Danny Murphy. Play continued though and Murphy tucked the ball home from six yards out to put Fulham 1-0 up.
In a rare attack Burnley responded almost immediately after McDonald linked well to set up Fletcher but the striker put his shot wide. If Clarets fans were hoping that was the start of a fight back we would be sadly mistaken with Fulham once more taking over the reins in complete control. Jensen prevented Etuhu from doubling the lead but it was only a matter of time before we went further behind such was the dominance by Roy Hodgson`s men.
On 31 minutes, Zamora was allowed to run on despite clearly being behind the back four in an offside position. He got in a low shot which Jensen partially saved. The Beast could not hold onto the ball though and it fell to Elms who scored with a simple tap-in. We were now 2-0 down thanks to two poor refereeing decisions but even so we cannot really use that as an excuse in view of Fulham`s total dominance and possession up to that point.
It got worse for the Clarets when Cort limped off with an injury a minute later. Laws had to make some readjustments with Eagles coming on in midfield, Edgar taking over from Cort in the centre of defence and Fox dropping back to his more familiar left-back role.
Our only real chance in the whole game came from a set-piece towards the end of the first half after being awarded a direct free kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Mears to thump a curling shot which grazed the crossbar. Danny Fox also hit a set-piece straight at Mark Schwarzer, a far cry from his superb effort and goal in the previous game against West Ham at Turf Moor.
Laws made no further changes at half-time and the second half resumed more or less as the first one had finished with Fulham in complete control and the Clarets looking clueless. It only took them nine minutes of the second half to put this game beyond our reach.
Zamora had been causing the Clarets all sorts of problems and he almost added a third goal when the ball fell kindly to him the area. Jensen though got down well to palm his low strike around the post. Our defence could not cope with his pace and strength though and during one attack Edgar was culpable in bringing him down on the edge of the penalty area with 54 minutes played.
Communication problems between Jensen and the wall opened up a gap which Zamora spotted and he thumped a low left-footed curler into the bottom corner of the net with Jensen diving too late to save it.
Job done, Zamora and Duff were substituted but the relentless Fulham pressure continued with Clarets fans fearing that a tonking was on the cards. It was Jensen who denied them a fourth goal after Okaka was put through by Murphy who was now running towards goal. The Beast in a good position got his legs into action to halt progress.
There was one final chance to rub salt in the Clarets fans wounds when in the dying few seconds of the match, a volley by Okaka went thankfully wide.
This is certainly one match that Clarets fans will want to instantly forget and the only cheerful news on the night was the fact that at least Manchester City had beaten Bolton 2-0 at Eastlands which meant Susan Boyle`s mob would still be below us!
Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Shorey, Duff (Riise 77), Murphy, Etuhu, Davies (Greening 62), Elm, Zamora (Okaka 71.
Subs Not Used: Kelly, Nevland, Smalling, Zuberbuhler.
Goals: Murphy 23 Elm 31 Zamora 54
Booked: Yellow Card for Etuhu
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort (Eagles 32), Edgar, Bikey, Elliott (Cork 56). McDonald, Fox, Nugent (Paterson 76), Fletcher.
Subs Not Used: Subs: Weaver, Duff, Blake, Thompson
Possession: Fulham 54% Burnley 46% (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Steve Bennett (Kent)
Just as nobody was rated below 7 in our last game, in this match nobody would be rated above 6 in my opinion
Andre Bikey had his moments but then faded and the only bright spark was really Jack Cork, our new loan midfielder from Chelsea. He came on from the bench to make his Clarets debut in the 56th minute to replace a woeful Elliott and looked both lively and determined. He was not on the pitch long enough really to give a full assessment but in the absence of anybody else shining enough to deserve our star player award, we give the honour to Jack!
There was only one star performer on the night and that was our away support. Only Clarets fans could shout 'Brian Laws Claret & Blue Army` continually for almost 50 minutes in the second half just before and after going 3-0 down. The din was immense. I had to leave a few minutes early to catch a train back and I could hear the resonant Clarets fans for a full three minutes at least walking away from the ground. Proud to be a Claret but these away defeats have to stop.