Here is Bazza’s match report.
On a weekend when the BAFTA awards were being handed out, I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that football, like theatre is well represented by the masks of mirth and tragedy and this game certainly demonstrated all the varying emotions of the stage and screen with the comical own goal by Chris Baird to the sad way, from Blues’ perspective, that the match ended. More about the game in a moment as spending an afternoon with my mate Will is an entertainment in itself and this Sunday was to prove no different. I travelled up on the train for this one and although it was slow going with engineering works and the like, I kept myself reclusive and in the zone by listening to Katherine Jenkins and then Schubert’s Great Symphony on the iPhone. This passed the time nicely and I was soon disembarking at Putney Bridge tube station. I had arranged to meet Will and his brother-in-law, Alex in the Temperance pub at about one o’clock for a pint and a bite to eat. For those of you that are followers of the Royal Blue from near and far, you will be aware that the Eight Bells about 50 yards away is the normal hostelry of choice for away fans. When I enquired as to why we had come to this pub rather than that one Will said “They only sell corned beef rolls in the Eight Bells but yow can get a steak sandwich in ‘ere.” Enough said, I went to the bar and ordered one myself. We were joined by a work mate of Will’s; Bob and Bob’s son affectionately known as Stick Man, Fulham supporters both. We talked complete rubbish about anything and everything over three pints including the plight of Portsmouth. It seems opinion is divided over whether they will go out of business or not; Bob citing the example of Charlton a few years ago but the scale of the problem was very different and this time the dreaded Inland Revenue is front of queue for a large slice of the owing’s and the Tax Man doesn’t give a toss about, the club, community, traditions or the impact of football in this country and abroad so sadly unless somebody with very deep pockets and a complete loss of all reason comes forward I think it may well happen.
Any way off to the match and as mentioned earlier two minutes in and a cross by Bowyer towards the far post where Jerome was lurking was headed powerfully into the top corner by Baird who had no one within yards of him. Naturally we celebrated like we had really won the FA Cup! We didn’t care that we have forwards who cannot do what the now honorary bluenose, Chris Baird had just done; magnificent! The man is a God! Fulham were rattled by this set back for a few minutes and Fahey really should have made it two when his goal bound snap shot hit a defender when either side of him would surely have netted. Fahey was in McFadden’s left midfield berth, the latter was playing up front with Jerome and both were causing problems without really threatening the big muscular Fulham back line. The game settled after 10 – 15 minutes into a dull mediocrity with Blues allowing Fulham possession as long as it was in front of them. Consequently the ball spent a long time being passed across the field while each side probed for an opening. The worrying area for Blues was Ridgewell’s limitations in the left back berth especially as Fahey isn’t exactly strong defensively either. Zamora who was excellent all afternoon cleverly won a number of free kicks when it was he and not Ridgewell who was the perpetrator on some occasions. A special mention has to go at this point to the assistant referee with the chequered flag running the line on that side; he was truly abysmal all day and missed obvious decisions for both sides but in the first half Blues suffered greatly because of this wholly inept official. Even the throw ins he seemed to take his lead from the referee as most of the time he hadn’t a clue which player the ball had come off last. The travelling supporters were quick to voice their disapproval on numerous occasions throughout the match. Officials like this are wholly out of their depth and should have their competency reviewed and remedial action taken or be removed from the list altogether but it wont happen will it?
At half time I met Ian from Sutton Coldfield whom I now know reads this blog. He said that I wouldn’t have much to report from the first half and how right he was. The second period was a lot better and after a flurry of pressure from the home side Blues seemed to be steadying the ship and were in control when they conceded the equaliser; and what a beautiful strike it was. Damian Duff had been a thorn in our side all afternoon. He cut inside from the left exchanging a one two with Gera to hammer a fierce shot from 25 yards across Joe Hart who dived valiantly but in reality had no chance of reaching it. The shot cannoned off the far post into the net to give Fulham parity that frankly they hadn’t looked like achieving to that point; a truly fabulous goal and worth the admission money alone. The game became somewhat “attritional” from then on with Blues having a spell of pressure that culminated with an equally impressive strike by James McFadden from 20 yards which crashed against the underside of the crossbar and down onto the line. Fulham were blessed by the Gods of football that this lovely shot was not justly rewarded. However, on such fine margins are games won and lost and we really didn’t threaten the home side much after that.
The game appeared to be petering out into a draw which was the fair result on the action produced. That was until of course Stephen Carr went in on Zoltan Gera to concede a free kick just outside the area inside the D. It was a clumsy, unnecessary challenge which Bobby Zamora lined up menacingly. Unfortunately, Fabio Capello had left the stadium at this stage but had he stayed there is no doubt he would have been impressed by what happened next. A wall the length of a certain structure in China was assembled and there seemed virtually nothing to aim at. The ball was too close to get up and over in time so Zamora smashed it round the wall instead like an arrow into the top corner. Joe Hart’s despairing outstretched right hand could not prevent the ball entering the postage stamp and there it was a defeat that Blues did not deserve but nevertheless had to accept.
Most Fulham fans that I spoke to afterwards also felt that their win was harsh on our lads but as Will, the Godalming philosopher was quick to point out when the aged old cliché ‘Neither team did enough to win’ was trotted out that Fulham did indeed do enough; they scored three wonderful goals! The difference was that they have better finishers in their side than us and two new strikers at least are essential in the summer as is a left back. Our midfield, I felt had the edge. On a different day Blues win this match comfortably; Fahey scores, Duff’s effort comes out off the post not in and James McFadden’s shot crosses the line and Zamora’s strike does what happens 9/10 times and is blocked, wide, high or saved. Will also said at this point “D’yow know Baz that whenever I drink beer it seems to numb the pain of losin’” Naturally, this led to the suggestion that we should go back to the pub and do just that. Alex, Bob and Stick Man were in agreement so having fallen in amongst such bad company what choice was there but to acquiesce? Another three pints later and it was back on the train. On the way, Alex’s bladder got the better of him and he had to alight at Surbiton before his clothes got wet and had to follow on from there. We were feeling benevolent at this stage and had a lovely conversation with a music student called Catherine who politely declined to play the flute, recorder or clarinet that she had with her for our amusement. Alex and Will went on for a curry from Guildford whilst I went home. Apparently, Will has a head like a foot this morning and realises that we did after all lose the game.
It was an average game with three cracking goals and all in all it was a great day out. Blues didn’t play badly and were done by two classy finishes. During our recent run we got the little bits of luck to sustain such. Just now things have turned against us a little bit. Last week of course we mugged Derby and they argued they deserved a replay, a view with which I have sympathy but in the end they lost because they failed to keep us out. We wore the mask of mirth that day; it was our turn to don the mask of despair this time around. We have to accept the same criticism levelled at Derby last Saturday this week and congratulate Fulham who with goals like the ones they scored were worthy winners. 🙂 🙁