Fulham 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
One point we just about earned I thought.
Slav went with the team that beat Blackburn with Gibbs still being injured - probably the correct decision.
The opening 20 minutes was probably the most we’ve been dominated this season. I think have to give credit to Fulham for that mainly; I thought they played from the back better than any side we’ve seen at this level in this season and last, expertly breaking our press and getting into dangerous areas. I thought Austin’s mobility was partly a problem too - he was putting the effort in but he’s far from quick and it was easy, especially with Phillips being very selective about when to put effort in and Pereira/Diangana also not tracking as well as they might.
During this spell Livermore was all effort but little intelligence and Sawyers allowed the game to pass him by, barely getting a touch. Fulham hit the bar and created chances whereas we looked disjointed. You could see from the latter part of the half that we dropped deeper and got into the game more, creating a few chances and looking threatening but far from in control.
Personally I’d have changed it at half time - perhaps trying Phillips up front and taking Austin off for Edwards to go wide right but we kept it the same.
Unfortunately for us Fulham started strongly again and after pressure scored a decent goal - a looper into the far corner. Harsh to say but even if Johnstone has no chance, he certainly got absolutely nowhere near it and his starting position and footwork didn’t look great to me.
One thing about our new manager I quite like is that he’s not afraid to change it early and on came Krovinovic for Livermore and Edwards for Phillips. The changes didn’t have any impact and HRK was brought on for Diangana for what looked like a more meat and potatoes 4-4-2. I thought Austin was lucky to stay on the pitch and Diagana always carries a threat.
I was worried Fulham would now push up to halfway and ease Austin and HRK out of the game but the aggressive effort of Edwards and the deeper role for HRK got us back into it with better collective pressing - Fulham also got really sloppy. From a dangerous Pereira corner (our set plays until then really annoyed me - 2 men over every one is a waste of a man surely?) Fulham gifted Semi with a nod in.
From then on we looked more likely to win it although Fulham had their chances too.
All in all a decent point against a team who, having seen them, look better than anything in the league last year and you’d think will be up there.
I think our biggest problem is who to play up front and I don’t know the answer- there isn’t a stand out choice. Maybe Edwards deserves a go given we’re hardly playing it long up for someone to hold it?
And finally... I’m playing in a charity football match against ex Albion, Villa and Wolves pros for Cure Leukaemia and a local lad Charlie Cowley on Sunday September 29th at 2pm, Stourbridge Town FC. £5 entry for adults and under 16s free.
A chance for me to mark myself with a very low score in match report!
Details for the game and how to sponsor me are here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sean-clegg
Overall a good point at Fulham. I don't think many teams will get points at the cottage this season. Fulham ran the show for thirty minutes before we even touched the ball! Johnston made two fantastic saves which kept us in the game.
We seemed to lack mobility and creativity in midfield, but of course if you don't have the ball you can't play. Fulham pass the ball sweetly and they will be in the top six at the end of the season. We came back into the game and just about deserved a point. We could have even won it at the end with our only real period of pressure for ten minutes.
Always enjoy going to Fulham, a neat ground with friendly fans. The new stand nearing completion will add some class and the stadium will be great. Away support was special as usual. Fulham fans were quiet as usual. Unbeaten and the Terriers up next should see us maintaining top three position.
Fourth vs Sixth: does not equal a perfect ten
The back bar at The Inglewood was, this Saturday eveing, devoid of any birthday party, though the manager told me that they'd "get BeIN on shortly" as all of the screens were taken up with action from, AFL playoffs - Brisbane vs Greater Western Sydney, Rugby League - Manly vs Cronulla, the Liverpool vs Newcastle EPL game coverage and a Jason Roy-less England trying to save the series in the 5th Ashes Test. The sound, sadly, was given over to the AFL and, after GWS won, to the EPL.
As the teams, and the backup staff, ran out on to the pitch - Fulham's ground being one of the few not to have the "dugouts" on the same side, or one of the corners of one of the sides, as the changing-rooms - I couldn't help notice the amazing similarity between the Albion's mascot and the captain, give or take a facial hair or two, and found myself wondering if, by chance, they were related.
The screen above the pool table, which was allocated to the Albion game turned out not to be the best, from an all-round viewing environment, in that I had to turn all the way round in order to see the cricket, or the Liverpool game, the reason I think that I didn't even realise that the 'Toon had taken the lead, which was odd, given that the Albion game was hardly the most compelling spectacle.
Wasn't clear what either side was afraid the other would do if they coughed up posession, but the fear of trying to play football resulted in a pretty scrappy opening, in which neither side really clicked, unless you were considering the length of the long and cross-field balls as your metric.
If anything Fulham, mostly through Knockaert, whose wide play echoed that of Derby's Waghorn in the game I'd seen a couple of weeks back, looked slightly the better side, though it may not have been, around a quarter-of-an-hour in, from one of his balls into the box that a Fulham striker who found himself all alone managed to completely miss the target.
Ten minutes later, Johnstone pulled off a double save as Fulham camped around the Albion box, first diving to his right to palm away a shot from out side the box and then tipping one over after the ball he'd palmed away was quickly delivered back in.
Within a minute of the double save, Albionn had broken upfield but Austin, trying to get on the end of the ball into the box, opted not to take a touch, possibly as he didn't realise he had the time too, and the chance went begging.
Ten minutes after that, a Fulham striker found no-one between him and Johnstone, standing centrally on the goal-line, but could only manage to head straight at the keeper.
There'd be yet more chaos in the Albion box before half-time as yet another Fulham player found himself free of any marker but could only comically slice a shot from the left edge of the six-yard-box towards the left edge of the penalty box rather than the goal.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Albion would go behind after Fulham were, once again, allowed to move the ball around the edge of our box until, finally, Knockaert curled the ball, from near the left corner of the area, over Johnstone and into the right-side netting of the goal he was protecting from a central stance.
Despite the double substitution, which Bilic made before the hour, I wasn't getting the feeling that Albion were ever going to create enough to get back into the game but then, with ten minutes remaining the ghost of our "good from set-pieces" days appeared in the Fulham box, as from a corner, Austin, who'ld spent much of the game failing to bring other players into it by not being able to find a team-mate with pass, managed to obstruct - in the lawful sense of obstructing - the keeper to the extent that his flap at the ball in the centre of the goal failed to impede its progress onto the head of Ajayi who simply had to nod in from two yards out.
Any Fulham claims that Austin slapped/pushed their keeper should be cancelled out by the fact that the keeper had started it all, in a typical bout of "jostling in the box". It's the sort of thing that goes on all the time, and about which officials seem reluctant to do anything. In this case, the contacts (I stress the plural) from either player were minimal at best but, as it is designed to do, it clealry put the Fulham keeper off for long enough for him to not deal with what would have been an otherwise routine delivery.
Albion even seemed to take some momentum from having scored and had two decent chances, bizarrely, from our full-back division, before the end, with Furlong going close with a powerful header from a set-piece at left-hand post, and then driving into the right-side side-netting when he probably should have at least hit the target after cutting in as we finally started looking like a credible threat.
Although neither side really deserved to win the contest, Albion will probably have come away the happier with their point.
Having now seen both Zohore, in the Derby County game, and Austin in this one, it's clear where we need to improve, or change the tactics, as neither seems likely to play much of a part in any kind of slick interpassing build up approach. Might just need to use all of the wingers we have, go to the bye-line and "stick in the mixer" for a few games. Still early days though.
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