Hot, Steaming Football on a Cold Night
It was a tough, hard-fought contest on what appeared to be a bitter cold night. I usually miss being in The Cottage, but sitting in shorts and a tee-shirt on my living-room couch was just perfect for me as Fulham and Albion shared the points in an excellent match to watch — if you’re not freezing your gazungas off, of course.
Well, the first thing I have to say is that – surprisingly – I’m satisfied with the point. I know it’s the first one West Bromwich Albion have taken at The Cottage in the Premier League, but it was an entertaining match that both sides contributed mightily to. It was played in good spirit, and there were very good performances from both sides.
The second thing I have to say is that I saw more attacking from WBA today than I saw in the last two seasons of Roy Hodgson away games. I’m not sure if his philosophy has changed or if it’s just happenstance, but Albion have taken more points and scored more goals on the road this season than at home.
Fulham began with the 4-6-0 many of us forecasted as a result of Zamora’s departure yesterday. I don’t remember seeing anything about the fitness of Andrew Johnson, but he didn’t even feature on the bench. With four attacking midfielders, one box-to-box multi-tasker, and one attack-minded central mid in midfield, we should have expected a lot of creativity and entertaining passing. That’s what we got. Without a recognized striker on the pitch, we should have expected uncertain finishing. That’s what we got.
The first half was engaging and end-to-end. Much of the early work featured attacking passes to Simon Davies out on the left wing. I was so happy to see him out there and apparently fit – I almost awarded him man of the match after 5 minutes. Murphy was finding everyone and, as the half went on, Damian Duff looked the most threatening player on the pitch. The Fulham faithful’s whipping boys all had good solid halves. Ruiz, Stockdale, Senderos, and Kelly all looked competent, if the former looked a bit slow and the latter seemed to have forgotten that he could actually kick with his left foot. Dempsey had some good attacking play, but WBA’s wide defenders did a competent job on Davies and Duff, and nothing came from nothing. There seemed to be absolute certainty that Fulham would score in the last 8 or so minutes of the half, but 0-0 was a very fair result.
The second half was more of the same. Ruiz became more effective as WBA dropped off him. It was his cleverly disguised pass that Dempsey dispatched for the Fulham goal – that’s SEVEN goals in his last four matches – and it looked like the points were safe. It looked like they were locked when Riise unleashed one of his thunderbolt specials that looked like a second, but curved safely wide.
And then WBA scored through their substitute Baby Back Tchoyi who managed to slip between our two center halves and then do what no Albion player had managed to do up to that point – get it on goal and at pace. Stockdale got a fingertip to it, but it was a well-taken goal. Fulham worked hard to get the winner [and give me two points in the picking pool], but shared points was fair. It does both sides a favor with the bottom five all dropping points.
I don’t believe that Jol went to his bench, and I don’t blame him. We were playing very well as a unit, and the only attacking players we had on the bench were Frei and Trotta, and this wasn’t the game for kids.
Graham Dorrans really caught my eye for West Brom, as did Morrison. The defensive capabilities of Duff and Davies on the wings allowed for both fullbacks to go forward and keep the attack wide. But for me the player that stood head and shoulders above everyone today [well, metaphorically speaking] was Danny Murphy. Given time by West Brom’s midfielders, he dictated play all over the pitch and helped his defense out into the bargain.
So, did we miss Zamora? Well, in our last home match he had a goal and three assists and any of those four would have given us all the points. Yes, we could have used that kind of support today, but until such time as Our Late President is picked, Pog gets match fit and/or Jol feels it’s time to bring Trotta to bear, we’re going to have to go with that 4-6-0. With Dempsey and Ruiz at the spearhead, that should be enough for us most days.
HatterDon’s Man of the Match: Cap’n’ Danny Murphy, who did the #13 shirt proud.
On to Eastlands on Saturday, and another live televised match. COYW