Looking at the fixtures earlier in the season, I’d looked at this game back in October thinking it could be crucial with us at that time, hovering around the relegation zone . Well in a way, it was a big game, it was to ensure we finished in the top 10 for the 3rd time in 4 years. Throw 3 different managers into those 4 years, the change of personnel and playing styles that go with that and it makes you realise how great an achievement that is. We are in fact only 2nd behind Manchester City in the form guide over the last 6 games and out of the last 6 away games, we’ve won 3 which normally equates to a season’s worth of wins for Fulham.
Prior to the game, there had been various rumours about players leaving Fulham in the summer and this meant it could possibly be the last home game for some of our bigger stars, namely Dempsey, Dembele and Murphy. If any were to go, would they deliver a performance to say Au Revoir in style?
The team was a familiar one from recent outings and the only change from the Liverpool game was Diarra coming in for Kakaniklic. With 2 teams sat in the middle of the table with neither relegation problems or European aspirations, you could be forgiven for thinking the game would be played at half pace.
Fulham started brightly and as has been familiar under Jol as the season has progressed, we're not afraid to keep the ball until there’s an opening rather than just punt the ball up field, with Diarra and Danny pulling the strings. It was a run from Diarra on 12 minutes that led to Cattermole bringing him down and giving us a free kick 25 yards from goal. Who else would step up to take it other than our man on a hot streak, Dempsey. The position was almost identical to where he had scored a few weeks earlier against Bolton and the result was exactly the same, fired into the top corner, giving the keeper little chance and Fulham a deserved 1-0 lead.
Even though they were behind, Sunderland kept passing well but had created very little until the 34th minute when Bardsley linked with Colback and Ji to fire a fantastic effort in from 20 yards. It was a goal of real class and showed that Sunderland weren’t yet packed and on their hols, they were at the Cottage to go for a win.
The celebrations for the goal from Sunderland were at least a minute which was approximately 50 seconds longer than their lead lasted after the re-start. From the kick off, the ball was played into Dembele who dropped his shoulder to get past the 1st man and then he drove towards the Sunderland area. With another jink, he made space and got his shot away from 20 yards and via a slight deflection from Turners knee, the ball was in the top corner. A little lucky maybe but fully deserved after an incisive run from our silky skilled Belgian. No doubt Martin O'Neil was livid but Fulham deserved to be ahead after making the most positive moments in the match.
There was one moment of late drama in the half when on 44 minutes, Riise made a fantastic tackle taking the ball on the edge of the area which Martin Atkinson appear to judge as dangerous play and we were left to defend a free kick in a dangerous position. Thankfully the ball went wide but to have conceded a goal from that move would have been a travesty.
The 2nd half started well again for Fulham with Duff, Riise and Kelly all moving forward and looking to put dangerous balls into the box. Duff had a good effort well saved from Mignolet and at one stage, it looked like Kelly was going to get a well deserved goal but unfortunately it was straight at the keeper. What it showed though was how much Kelly’s game confidence has grown this season and he really has done a fantastic job in holding down the right back position. We may well be looking to bring in a younger player in that role in the summer but I hope that Kelly signs an extension in the summer as he fully deserves it.
The game moved along with no further incidents until the 76th minute when the newly introduced substitutes Bendnter and Campbell combined to allow the latter a free chance 8 yards from goal. Thankfully for Fulham, he showed the composure of Heskey and dragged the ball wide, a big let off.
The game was nearing a nervy end when Dempsey was bought down in the centre circle and the ball drifted to Dembele. Martin Atkinson remembering that refs are allowed to play advantage, let Dembele continue and he went on a mazy run, finding himself in the box after losing 4 players. His shot was strong and low but unfortunately too close to Mignolet and after hitting his leg, it went over for a corner.
So that was it, a 2-1 win in front of the Cottage faithful followed by the end of season parade of the players with their families. A very good performance from the boys in white, showing patience, passing with style and playing extremely well from the back and through the middle. The only player that didn’t particularly stand out for me yesterday was the Pog, plenty of running and jumping for headers (although not winning many) but not really creating any good opportunities. Maybe a little harsh on him but he did show full commitment.
As the season draws to a close, you can’t help but think if we can keep our best players and add some talented youth, where could we be next year? There will be plenty of talk of transfers both in and out over the coming months and if Dempsey and Dembele don’t sign their extensions soon, for me, that means they will be on their way. It will be tough to replace Dempsey’s goals and Dembele’s skill and composure on the ball but Jol does seem to be a man with a plan and he will have target’s to replace these and quite possibly Danny. Danny will be the toughest to replace for me though as much for his vision on the pitch but also his leadership. Players of his ilk are very rare, especially in the English game. I really want Danny to be here beyond his playing career and be a coach at some level with us and I'm hoping the club can come to an agreement to allow this to happen.
Well, the season is nearly done and it's exceeded my expectations after all the changes . Thanks for reading my 1st post and here’s to making it 5 away wins this season at Spurs.