Tag Archives: Christensen

The View From South Texas — Charlton Athletic v. Fulham FC

Victory at the Valley Averted!

Fulham somehow managed to take a match that they were dominating AFTER taking a two-goal lead in the second half and having its supporters greet the final whistle with the distinct feeling that The Whites had stolen a point. A point on the road is always good to have, and who would have been disappointed a month ago with the prospect of sharing the spoils with Charlton Athletic. But the Charlton side that Fulham faced early Sunday morning [0600 South Texas sub-Standard Time] was not the side who opened the Championship campaign with four wins on the trot. They were there ready to be taken, and taken they really should have been.

The first thing that struck me about the match was the sight of bright sunlight on the VERY quick pitch. My only visit to the valley was on a very murky day – it must have been in November – about 40 or so years ago. All I remember was the tallest single stand I’d ever seen, and thinking that everything looked like an old black and white movie. The stand is gone, and if you’d shown me several photos of the new Valley ground, I’d not have recognized anything. One thing from the old days has survived, however, and that’s the size of their pitch. I don’t know if there’s a more expansive one in the Football League.

Charlton’s manager has obviously built his side to take advantage of the spaces. With the pitch slick and alive, Charlton showed early on that their plan was to shoot long passes into open space beyond the final four for speedsters to run on. The match was barely a minute old when such a pass resulted in a Charlton shot going just wide. There followed several other forays, with Fulham’s back four called into action each time.

After the first ten minutes or so, the match turned into a more even affair, and by the half hour, Fulham looked the more dangerous of the two sides. A free kick awarded at least 40 yards from goal was taken by Ross McCormack on the 32nd minute. Despite the distance, he hammered a laser shot directly at Pope who was minding the Athletic goal. It skipped off the turf and Pope pushed it toward the penalty spot. In sped Ryan Tunnicliffe to tuck it away and it was 1-0. There followed several opportunities to extend the lead but hesitancy and clumsiness foiled Christensen and Dembele and the half ended 0-1.

The half time talk certainly dealt with shutting down Athletic’s only attacking weapon, because Fulham’s front line concentrated on closing down their opponents each time they lost the ball. The quick long pass out of defense was just a memory and, for the first 40 minutes of the second half, Fulham bossed the pitch. Ross McCormack’s remarkable goalscoring run continued when Ryan Tunnicliffe found him at the top of the penalty area in the 59th minute. Turn, strike, goal. 0-2.

And that should have been that. Kit Symons obviously thought so, because almost immediately after that goal he pulled off the ineffective Pringle and replaced him with Luke Garbutt – finally fit enough to make the game day squad. This wasn’t a defensive move, either. Garbutt took to Pringle’s wingback role with relish. He looks as if he may well be completely recovered. On the 75th minute, Cauley Woodrow came on for the very frustrated Moussa Dembele. Once again, the French teenager showed spirit, strength, pace, and discipline, but couldn’t convert any of those into either a goal or an assist. Woodrow does what Woodrow does when he comes on late in the match – he bustled about, ran his socks off, had a couple of very good shots go just wide.

And then the roof fell in. One minute after Johnny Jackson came on as a sub, he found himself completely unmarked on a corner – hauntingly familiar, ain’t it – and Charlton had pulled one back. More than that, however, the goal woke up the home supporters and the supporters woke up the players. From this point on, everyone supporting the Whites were looking at the clock and trying to make it go faster. Because of the two goals and the full complement of six substitutes, Referee Linington called for four minutes of stoppage time.  After on-pitch treatment for Jazz Richards after he had cleared another goal threat, four minute expanded to six. With Athletic now hammering the Fulham goal – really for the only time in the match – the equalizer came from Cousins in the FIFTH minute of the 90th.

Gut punch city. I find it hard to fault Fulham’s game plan or the players execution of it for the defeat … er draw. Rather, it was the fact that the lead had five or six good chances to expand further before Jackson came onto the pitch. So in control were Fulham that the score should have been at least 0-4 by the time he arrived. The two Athletic goals were well taken – especially the equalizer – and they were really the only serious incursions into Fulham’s penalty area. Some times you plan well, you adjust well, you play well, and you still feel – well, like you stole a point from a match that you dominated for 80 minutes.

Individually? Well, I’m wondering who will be our left back when we play next. With the international break coming up, there’ll be plenty of time for Garbutt to be ready to play 90. Both showed attacking intent and defended well when called for. Tunnicliffe had an interesting stint – a goal, an assist, and the feeling that he wasn’t really into the match. The biggest disappointment for me was Christensen. LVC has two more matches to make a case for him to stay in the starting XI when Cairney comes back. He certainly did NOT make that case today.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match – well, it really has to be Ross McCormack. He was all over the pitch and Charlton’s defense never had an answer to him. There’s a special mention for Jamie O’Hara. When he left the pitch in the 90th, it was obvious he had given ever ounce and every sinew for the team. I hope he got some oxygen.

Oh, and well done the travelers. I think I heard every song you guys ever sung – loud, proud, and clear all the way over here in the People’s Republic. That, as much as anything else, made getting up early worth it.

The View From South Texas — Fulham FC v. Norwich City FA3 Replay

Up for the Cup

Yesterday – yes, I know, not my usual publishing speed – Fulham roasted an all-at-odds Norwich City at half-empty Craven Cottage and sent them down the mine in search of a Canary and out of the FA Cup.

Bouncing back from perhaps the most embarrassing league result in recent memory, Fulham controlled the action almost from the beginning and ran out 3-0 winners. It was much easier than the scoreline indicated. Yes, young Murphy started again and caused Riether some problems early on, but also early on Norwich displayed a tactical flaw. Passes upfield out of defense were tentative and to zone rather than to player. What was needed here was a greedy opponent – preferably a young winger – to capitalize on this weakness. In Alex Kacaniklic, Fulham have such a young winger, and he purloined passes all match. Fulham also showed a desire to press Norwich’s defense and midfield all evening, which made it easier for the Whites to turn toothless City attacks into ruthless Fulham attacks.

Fulham’s first goal combined two wingers, a center mid and a fullback, but was scored by our much maligned striker Darren Bent. Bent’s not the most industrious chap ever to wear the black and white, but he knows what to do with a cross and a distracted defense. Fulham’s second came from the Andrew Johnson playbook. Bent stretched out the defense by going wide, Kacaniklic moved to the right wing further confusing them, and found right winger Ashkan Dejagah racing into the penalty area like an Iranian Clint Dempsey. Two crosses, two easy conversions. What next?

Well, it wasn’t immediately next, but Fulham’s third goal came from a cross hammered into the back of the net by the White’s own special one Iniesta. How sad is it when your leading goalscorer is a central midfielder and you have two proven goalscorers in your striker corps? Pretty sad, but just imagine how poor our season would be if we didn’t have Sidwell out there – match after match – winning the ball, supporting the attack, and converting chances. Yeah, just imagine … we might be playing crap match after match and finding ourselves in the middle of a relegation struggle.

Hey, wait a minute … .

Individually? This match was my first look at Dan Burn. I liked what I saw. I think he’s better than any CB we have on our books and should stay. Yes, I noticed that Hangeland was back, but I also noticed that he was still tentative and slow on the turn. It might be a fitness thing, but I think Fulham supporters are kidding themselves if they believe that they’ll ever see the Hangeland that was the Rock of Defensive Ages.

Generally speaking, starting Special K and Super Iranian made Fulham instantly better. Two attack minded wide players increase the threat of Darren Bent significantly. I’m not all that sure about Karagounis as the protector of the back four, however. Despite the fact that I’ve seen several shouts for him to be man-of-the-match, I though him most responsible for Norwich’s early attacking moves in each half. He dwelt on the ball and conceded possession leading to almost every threat to the Fulham goal. Oh, and speaking of which Stekelenberg was back, and impressed me not at all. I thought Richardson showed why he should be first choice LB, but I haven’t figured out what Rene wants his sides to do yet, so I’m not predicting.

Finally, I was pleased to see Tankovic, Dembele, and Christensen get minutes. The highlight of the match for me was watching Dembele muscle Bassong out of the play and retain possession. I don’t think City’s central defender has had that sort of treatment from many teenagers.

All it all, it was a very good win and round four sends us to darkest Yorkshire to face Sheffield United. If we continue to use youngish players in the Cup, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue to look better in that competition than in the league. Or, maybe our leadership triumvirate will see the benefit in using the youth in the league as well. Well, perhaps.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match – With a special salute to Alex Kacaniklic who set the tone of the match early on, the non-existent Shiner Bock keg goes to Steve Sidwell for being an old-fashioned English box-to-box midfielder. Well done you!