Thursday, February 03, 2011

Duffed up

Fulham 1 - 0 Newcastle Utd

Before we start, it's worth remembering that whether we still had someone in our number nine shirt or not, he wouldn't have played last night due to injury. Therefore, Rocky's presence in our squad would have made no difference whatsoever to the team which Alan Pardew sent out last night against Fulham.

The fact that we lost, and looked pretty toothless in attack, does however become more alarming when you think that we don't now have the luxury of thinking our leading goalscorer is only a little way shy of returning to the first team.

The game itself was a pretty tight affair, with few chances for either side. Up front for Newcastle, Leon Best partnered Big Lad as Pardew sent out the same team which had drawn with Spurs in our last league match. Unfortunately for us (and in a twist faintly reminiscent of the Shearer injury following the sale of Ferdinand) we lost Big Lad early in proceedings thanks to a fractured cheekbone courtesy of Steve Sidwell's elbow. This left Pardew to bring on Nile Ranger to partner Best.

While we did a pretty good job of closing down the space and preventing Fulham from really getting going, unfortunately we were unable to fashion any decent chances of our own - our best moment being a Best header which sailed over the bar. At the other end, Mike Williamson looked to be pushing his luck on a couple of occasions, but Steve Harper wasn't really extended.

The second half, however, saw a marked improvement in our hosts' performance, as they started to press forward and soon enough our erstwhile winger Damien Duff began to carve out chances, although his poor shooting saw us let off twice in relatively quick succession. However, a long ball over the top saw the Irishman catch Jose Enrique napping, and he had enough pace to hold off the Spaniard before knocking the ball past Steve Harper to give Fulham a one goal lead.

At the other end, we never really looked like getting back on terms, our best chance being a turn and shot by Ranger which he didn't properly connect with and which Schwarzer was able to save. Lovenkrands replaced Best late on, but the Dane never looked like finding an opportunity to get us back on level terms.

What was perhaps most alarming was the disspirited look of the team as a whole. The Rocky saga seems to have deflated the side, and our previously good team spirit, which presumably was boosted by the trip to Portugal, already looks in short supply. It's easy to read too much into one match, but with Arsenal our next opponents, it doesn't look as though things are likely to pick up any time soon. Hopefully Big Lad will be back on the pitch (presumably sporting a mask) sooner rather than later, given that he now looks our most potent attacking weapon.

What is apparent is that Pardew needs to earn his money now by getting the team to pull together again - and quickly.

Fulham fans' views: Craven Cottage Newsround, Fulham FC Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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