Jekyll AND Hyde Visit Loftus Roadby HatterDon
How Fulhamish is it that your very humble correspondent was not the slightest bit worried about the outcome of this match UNTIL … until we took the lead early in the first half. I knew that we would continue to play pretty attacking football throughout the first half. I knew that we wouldn’t score. I knew that we’d allow 10-man QPR back into the match despite the obvious fragility of their defense. And, finally, I knew that within the last five minutes QPR would take two or perhaps all three points from us. It nearly happened, also, but Wright-Phillips blinked and Schwarzer didn’t and we got all the points.
The first thing that struck you about the match was the attacking nature of the lineup. We were going with a 4-4-2 today with Our Late President in the starting lineup. Once again, Cap’n’ Danny was partnered in midfield by Moussa Dembélé, and the Ruiz-Dempsey Passing Corporation was also featuring. Aaron Hughes earned a second start as Hangeland’s partner.
The second thing that struck you was how forward-looking we were. Our passing in the first half was nothing short of breathtaking. Johnson had the ball in the net early but was adjudged to be offside. It wasn’t long until our industrious Russian received an absolutely gorgeous back-heel feed from Dembélé. With only the keeper to beat, Pogrebnyack kept his cool and rolled the ball in. All this was within the first 7 minutes , but it turned out to be all we were going to need on the day. And, of course, for me it was sweating out the next 83 minutes and whatever stoppage time there would be.
We didn’t stop attacking, of course. Dempsey was fed through on two occasions by Ruiz and Murphy, but he didn’t have his finishing boots on today. He more than earned his keep, however, by winning possession whenever QPR attacked. He and Dembélé won ball after ball off the Rangers and turned their misguided attempts on our goal into the beginning of yet another Fulham attack. Our eager attackers should have been salivating with Diakite was sent off with the match barely 30 minutes old. Five or six earlier fouls and warnings didn’t put his head right, nor did the yellow he was awarded by the excellent Phil Dowd just a few minutes earlier. And so he was gone, and the already weak QPR defense was now bereft of its defensive shield. The fact that the Mali International was making his first ever start was a lucky break for Fulham – one of several on the day. Once he learns the pace and limitations of the Premier League, I think he’ll be an excellent defensive midfielder in this league and will have a goal or two in him as well.
We were also lucky that QPR’s most creative attacking force, Abdel Taarabt, was also their most wasteful attacking force. He caught the eye almost constantly by his ability to make the quick decisive pass, and well as his ability to turn a promising attack into a weak shot directly at Mark Schwarzer. Finally, did anyone notice Zamora today? Neither did I.
So what do we make of today? On the positive side, Pogrebnyack looks to be slotting in nicely, Dempsey hasn’t lost his form, and if there were an Assist of the Season award, Dembélé would be odds on to win it. The midfield duo of Dembélé and Murphy was dominant and brilliant all day, and it looks as if we finally have a decent taker of the dead ball. Ruiz had more quality free and corner kicks than you’ll see from Fulham in three or four matches. And despite the unconvincing play of our back five as a unit, Hughes and Schwarzer looked solid all day. Oh, and we got three points on the road and a double off QPR.
On the negative side, we failed to see off a weak side [with a vulnerable defense] that was down to 10 men AGAIN. We turned our first half dominance into a lackluster second half with little cohesive attacking AGAIN. Our only serious threat on goal was a late run by substitute Dickson Etuhu [??] who ran unchallenged for about half the pitch before shooting inches wide of Kenny’s goal.
But, what the hey, we won. I see no reason why we shouldn’t win our third on the trot in our next match, and that should see us in comfortable surroundings league table-wise. HatterDon’s Man of the Match was Our Enigmatic Belgian. He is such an improved player over last season and his recent “promotion” to the role of Murphy’s Partner has seen him play is very best football in our shirt.
About the travelers: usually I love hearing us on away days — especially when we out shout the home side — and when today’s chanting was about Fulham, our players, and Al Fayed it was great to hear. Unfortunately MOST of the audible “cheering” were the unimaginative and unoriginal brickbats aimed towards Zamora and Hughes. It seems that although we like to tell ourselves that we Fulham supporters are made from a different mold, this isn’t really the case.
Finally, as many of my readers will know, I am a fan of Mark Hughes as a manager. I think that he was ill-used by our club and that Martin Jol is inferior to him as a tactician and as a motivator. Add to my thoughts about Mr. Sparky that the way he ended the match today – shoving Jol’s extended hand away – was petulant and devoid of class. I hope he is fined by the league and cautioned by the LMA. Thanks to him, I’ve watched my last QPR match of the season.
Wolves at the door of the Cottage next weekend so COYW!