Blackburn 2 – 0 Fulham

The poor away form continues, with a result that Fulham could have done without. The worry is that after the highs of December, the team is finding it hard to keep the momentum up in January. The loss of several players to injury (and a couple in Africa) makes this a tough period, but there should be depth to the squad: many of the games in Europe against top opposition were played with alternate players.

Both goals came from set-pieces. The first from a corner which led to Duff needing to parry a knock from Murphy that could have been an own goal. That parry led, unfortunately, to the feet Samba. The second from a free kick in which Nelsen was able to get well clear to head in, although there was more than a hint of offside.

Dempsey was off injured, after a pretty good game in which he hit the bar (from a bicycle kick!) and made quite a bit of play. A potential cruiciate ligament knack, and if that’s the case, he could be out for some time. Hopefully Clint hasn’t taken more than a light knock.

Stoke City 3 – 2 Fulham

I’m sure most Fulham supporters would wish this game had been cancelled. Not only was the result bad (although it could easily have ended up as a draw after the Whites came back from 3-0 down and had a penalty denied in the last minute), but Hangeland had a relapse of his knee injury and then Zamora dislocated his collarbone.

Hopefully, Bobby will be fit within a few weeks, but it’s a blow for a player who has hit top form of late and was scoring at the rate of nearly goal a game through December. There are replacements in the wings, who have been playing in Europe or as cover when AJ was injured, but Hodgson had been hoping to see Zamora and Johnson working together up front.

January will also see some tough fixtures, with away trips to Blackburn and Spurs, and whoever we get in the FA Cup, while facing Portsmouth at home this Saturday and hosting Aston Villa at the end of the month.

FFC roundup

Couldn’t be bothered to post about the Xmas-New Year games, so this is just a summary:

Fulham 0-0 Spurs (26/12/2009)

A tough London Derby for Boxing Day, and neither team seemed to be operating at top speed. However, both teams did create good chances to score, and this is more a reflection of the quality of both teams’ defence than of an inability to convert. A point I’d have taken before the game

Chelsea 2-1 Fulham (28/12/2009)

As in many recent games, Fulham took the lead early, and then let the opposition come back. This time it led to the hosts winning, which is hopefully a wake-up call to the players. Mind you, it did take cunning changes from Ancelotti to get Chelsea playing in a way that released Drogba, and the Whites were searching for a late equaliser to the end. The big negative from this game was not the result, but the injury to Pantsil, which may see him out for the rest of the season.

Fulham 1-0 Swindon Town (02/01/2010)

A solid start to the New Year, with a comfortable win in the FA Cup Third Round (even though only one goal was scored, the game was played at a canter and Swindon presented little danger). The draw for Round 4 sees Fulham playing away, either at Accrington Stanley (“Oo are dey?”) or the less attractive prospect of Gillingham.

Pantsil would be unavailable for a while anyway, at the African Nations Cup where Digkacoi and Etuhu will hopefully be maintaining their form. Senegal didn’t qualify for the competition, so Kamara will be in the UK. The next couple of months are likely to decide how the season turns out, as the weather and injuries take their toll. It’s unlikely that Hodgson will make any major purchases in the January window, but he does have an eye on quite a few players apparently, and we could see further strengthening of the squad.

Fulham 3 – 0 Man U

ha ha ha ha ha. So much for European football weakening teams for the weekend games!

Danny Murphy again had an excellent game, and opened the scoring after nabbing the ball from Scholes and taking a simple shot from the edge of the box. It was clear that the Man U defence – featuring few of the regular starting players – were finding it tough to deal with the Whites, and at times they could not get the ball away. Even so, the Man U reserves are no pushovers, and Fulham had to be on their top form to come out on top.

Within seconds of the kick-off for the second half, Duff put a cross in from the right wing, for Dempsey to nod down into the path of Zamora for his fifth goal in four games. Bobby later set up the third goal for Duff to slot in, and had a shot saved near the end, to cap yet another fine performance.

Before the weekend, looking at the fixtures over the Christmas period (this one, Spurs on Boxing Day and away to Chelsea on the Monday after), I would have been happy with three points out of them in total. Now I’m not sure if we should be satisfied with less than 9. The league table is looking good as well. We have a game in hand (away to Stoke early in January), which means we could go above Liverpool – who were humiliated at Pompey yesterday afternoon – and there’s also a gap opening up behind Fulham, which should give the Club some confidence.

Burnley 1 – 1 Fulham

A valuable away point (all away points are valuable for a team like Fulham) up at Turf Moor. Like the last few games, the Whites  scored first (Zamora getting his second in two games) early in the second half, but unfortunately could not hold on for long as Burnley equalised on the hour. Fulham are now only one point behind Liverpool in the table.

The next game is the last Europa Cup group game, away to Basel. I’m all packed and ready to get out there. It’s going to be freezing cold, so hopefully Fulham will be providing reasons to jump up and down a bit.

Fulham 1 – 0 Sunderland

This game played out in quite a similar way to the Basel game earlier in the week. In the first half, Fulham were dominant and scored fairly early on (this time through Zamora) but despite creative play and several chances, could not extend their lead. In the second half, the opposition started to turn the tables, and Fulham seemed to let the pressure drop, but managed to hold on through quality defensive play.

In a sense, this win was ground out, but sometimes teams have to play such games. Since the 1-0 loss against Arsenal (arguably a result that the Gunners had to grind out), Fulham have played nine league games. One was the loss away to Brum and three were away draws, with the home draw against Bolton. The remaining four games were all home wins, including the scalp of Liverpool. Instead of being tired out by playing in Europe, it appears that the squad have been improving. The Whites are now 8th in the Premiership, and while there are some tough fixtures up ahead – the crunch game in Basel, followed by Man Utd, Spurs and Chelsea over Christmas – the club is in a very good position.

There’s a full six day break before the next game up at Burnley, so hopefully the players can be up to a long trip up north.

Fulham 1 – 1 Bolton Wanderers

Bleh.

A point’s a point and we are still in tenth, but still.

Fulham 3 – 0 Blackburn Rovers

That’s better…

Good to see Dempsey get two goals tonight, putting the game beyond question following Nevland’s opener. This was the game that was postponed from August (for one of the Europa Cup qualifiers), so winning it as a game in hand saw Fulham move up to 10th in the table.

Apparently, Rovers were the better team for the bulk of the first half, right up until Damien Duff set Nevland up with a few minutes to go. From then on through the second half, however, the home side were firmly in charge.

Birmingham City 1 – 0 Fulham

I was at one point going to go to this one – the girlfriend’s nephew went to St Andrews during half term and decided he wanted to go in the hope somehow magically of being a ball boy – but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s the sort of frustrating game in which much of the play is made by Fulham, but they can’t actually put away their chances. The home side’s goal was certainly a good piece of play, so no sour grapes there.

The next two games are home against similarly rated sides – Blackburn and Bolton – and they are definitely games in which the Whites should be looking to get maximum points. They’ll want the first league defeat in five games to be an aberration, rather than start of a trend.

Wigan 1 – 1 Fulham

It may look like an easier away game on paper, but Fulham haven’t beaten Wigan up there for some years, and they are not pushovers.

Both teams did play positively, and both goalkeepers were kept fairly busy. Dempsey’s converted penalty towards the end of the first half cancelled out an earlier Boyce goal, and so Fulham ended up taking away a point and remaining in 11th place.

The international break may mean that some of the injured players are back in time for the Birmingham and Blackburn games later in the month. Four points out of those would put the Whites in a good position.