Match Report: Fulham 2-1 Sunderland - Cottagers Outclass Crappy Cats
The end of the season can't come soon enough. For those keeping score at home, we're now 8 games without a win, although the bigger problem lies in that most of those we haven't even looked like winning. You can add today to that ever growing list too.
Craven Cottage hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for us in the past, but today we didn't seem to ever get going. Anyway, you can read more moaning like this, and much more in our match report below. There's all the action as we saw it, plus player ratings and early thoughts on next week...
Martin O'Neill continued to try out some of the fringe players int he squad. Having given Craig Gordon the start last week, he was dropped from the squad entirely, however there was a very rare start for Korean striker Ji Dong-Won in attack with Stephane Sessegnon. Craig Gardner also returned to the starting lineup after serving a suspension, and lined up on the right hand side of midfield, replacing Fraizer Campbell who was relegated to the bench. Also on there, a surprising sighting of Titus Bramble.
The game started at a bit of a subdued tempo, with little to pick out really beyond Simon Mignolet's solid save from Damien Duff, and Craig Gardner's audacious free-kick from 35-yards or so which went well over. That was until Clint Dempsey opened the scoring on 11 minutes.
The strike from Dempsey was very good. Hit with plenty of pace and whip around the wall, however fingers have to be pointed from our side at Mignolet who let it get past him, and even more so at Lee Cattermole for giving away the cheap foul in the first place.
Stephane Sessegnon nearly had us level almost instantly when he beat Fulham's offside trap, and beat Aaron Hughes all ends up before firing right at Mark Schwarzer from close range, however away from that the first quarter of the game was very much what we've come to know over the last month or two. Very flat, uninspired and tired looking on all fronts.
Which was why it was such as surprise that Phil Bardsley managed to equalise after 34 minutes, and credit to him, it was a cracking goal. A lovely run by Jack Colback played into Ji Dong-Won, the Korean's one touch lay-off to Bardsley, who smashed an unstoppable drive beyond Schwarzer.
The joy however was short lived, and I mean VERY short lived as just 15 SECONDS later, Moussa Dembele, or Michael Turner depending on what you want to believe, had The Cottagers back in front.
Right from the restart we seemingly just stood and watched Fulham pass it around, and once it reached the Belgian international on the halfway line, we stood off, and off, and off some more until he was at the edge of the area where he unleashed a powerful drive into the top corner, with a hefty deflection off Michael Turner.
That was essentially it for the first half barring Gardner missing with another free-kick, and A fairly decent strike with the right foot by James McClean. At the half though, we needed to pull our socks up and do a hell of a lot better to get anything out the game.
And we kind of did a little bit. Fulham still had their chances mind, notably when Pavel Pogrebnyak had a shot blocked for a corner, leading to another solid strike from Dempsey having to be headed off the line by Jack Colback, but in the main we had the better of the few chances created.
James McClean saw a turn and volley go right down the throat of Schwarzer, and when Fraizer Campbell and Nicklas Bendtner were added to the attacking mix, you felt we'd be able to convert one of these. This wouldn't be the case as both substitutes missed gilt edged chances to level.
On 73 minutes, Bendtner took his turn to miss. Gardner played the ball into Sessegnon on the halfway line, the Benin international expertly turned and rounded his defender and on the charge towards goal played in a wide open Bendtner who should have finished rather than put the ball into the middle rows of the Putney End.
Two minuted later, Bendtner was the provider for Fraizer Campbell to fluff his lines. A long ball up to the Dane was nodded down well into Campbell's path. On the run, 8-yards or so from goal, unmarked and in space, the former Manchester United man screwed the shot, and our chances in this one.
Fulham nearly heaped further agony on us in the final minute, however Simon Mignolet atoned for his early mistake by making a good stop, staying big. We ourselves had yet another sniff at the end when Campbell forced a corner, however that came to nothing and the game was over.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (7), O'Shea (7), Turner (5), Kilgallon (6), Bardsley (6), Gardner (6), Cattermole (4), Colback (6), McClean (6), Sessegnon (7), Dong-Won (7)
Subs Used: Bendtner (5), Campbell (5)
Man Of The Match: Simon Mignolet - A tough one to call, it really was, as there wasn't a whole host of standout performers, so put this down as a one where it's a case of Mignolet was one of the less rubbish ones. Error for Dempsey's goal aside, the score could have resembled that of a cricket match had it not been for the Belgian. Stephane Sessegnon and Ji Dong-Won also would have come in with good shouts here too, so don't bitch too much.
And so the season continues to go out with a whimper, the "Party With Marty" seems to be at an end, the glasses need washing up, and the silly string hoovered up. I assume that's what happens at parties, I'm not the kind of person that does that sort of thing.
Anyway, the game. A bit rubbish, very flat and we really need to give ourselves a kick up the backside to have any chance against Manchester United this coming weekend. Far too many players under performed again this week, notably Lee Cattermole who was as rubbish with the ball as he was without it.
There's still a lot of questions to be asked. Are the player simply not up to it? Should O'Neill take some of the blame for failing to inspire? I can't say for certain, but I do know we're absolutely desperate for a bit of quality in the squad, which is why the summer transfer window can't come quickly enough.