I suppose that experience and common sense tells you that you are going to experience performances like this throughout the course of a season, but that certainly doesn’t make them any easier to come to terms with when they do rear their ugly head. We were dire. Lethargic, lacking inspiration, and seemingly clueless as to how to string three or four passes together, create openings, and ultimately test Antti Niemi in the Fulham goal.
We never looked like scoring, and but for the intervention of old-boy Aaron Hughes, who in attempting to deflect a right wing corner away from Martin Laursen following an Olof Mellberg flick on, sent the ball past his own keeper, we certainly wouldn’t have done. We hadn’t done anything up to that point to suggest that we deserved to lead with a little over twenty minutes remaining, and despite Martin Laursen having a great opportunity to put us 2-0 ahead, the concern was always there that we weren’t in control of the game sufficiently enough to believe that another away win was on the cards. Sure enough, the home side came back to level through Simon Davies, and then win the game thanks to a Jimmy Bullard free kick with just a handful of minutes remaining.
It has to go down as our most inept showing of the campaign to date. We just didn’t seem up for it. Fulham, while admittedly re-inforced by the arrival of a few new faces during the transfer window, and with the popular Brian McBride back on the bench, looked there for the taking. That we were unable to ask the necessary questions and heap further misery on their long suffering supporters has to be a concern, because even without Ashley Young, you’d have been entitled to think that we have enough ammunition in our armoury, capable of seeing us register another impressive away performance/result. It was sadly not to be.
Even in previous away games when we haven’t actually been at our fluent best, for example Bolton at The Reebok, even Manchester City at The Stadium Of Light, we’d given off the impression that we were hanging in there, capable of getting something or something more out of the game, but today that belief just didn’t seem there.
Ironically enough I’d been saying all week that we’d come unstuck here, I just had that feeling, but even so, I think its fair to say that I expected more from us that was actually in evidence.
Once again the Villans journeyed in numbers, made a lot of noise, and created a decent atmosphere in front of what we were told afterwards by a Fulham supporter, was probably one of their biggest home attendances of the season. It was just so difficult to believe though that the team that had turned in such an exciting and entertaining performance two miles up the road at Stamford Bridge just over a month ago, should return to this area of our capital city and serve up such a shocker on this occasion.
There were four of us in the car, so we all voted for each players performance, and here’s the average score we came up with:
Scott Carson 5
Didn’t really have much to do. Not at fault for the goals we all agreed, but no saves of note to boost his score.
Olof Mellberg 5
Not at his best, but still did a job.
Martin Laursen 6
Defensively o.k., could/should have put us 2-0 up though.
Curtis Davies 6
Solid enough – shame about that late tackle on Kamara
Wilfred Bouma 5
Caught out a few times. Distribution still leaves something to be desired
Stan Petrov 4
Just didn’t get involved enough
Nigel Reo-Coker 5
Got stuck in, but distribution let him down
Gareth Barry 6
Not at his best, but who was?
Shaun Maloney 6
Lively but lacking. Does that make sense?
Big JC 4
Marlon Harewood 6
Livened us up a bit, but enjoyed very little support
Craig Gardner and Isaiah Osbourne
neither on long enough to evaluate. (Thought Isaiah had moved on loan to Leicester City? Obviously not)