Andy Johnson saves a point from Wolves, but Fulham can't grab the win
Fulham fans can come out of this match feeling 2 different ways. You can either feel this is a point gained, or 2 points lost. I’m not even going to beat around the bush, I’m going to get right to the meat and potatoes of how this match left me feeling: Mark Hughes lost 2 points for Fulham. Bottom line, end of story. And the worst part is, he lost the match before it even began. Mark Hughes came up with the brilliant idea of starting Eidur Gudjohnsen and Simon Davies instead of Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, or Gael Kakuta. His thinking was clearly to save the starters for the upcoming bouts with Bolton and Sunderland Wednesday and Saturday. We’ll see how the decision affects those matches, but right now, it cost Fulham 2 points.
Simon Davies actually played pretty well, but he ran out of steam and his crosses became more and more erratic as the match went on. Gudjohnsen was a non-factor, and his chance to prove his worth to the club went by the wayside.
For the record, did I not say that nobody ever wants to go up against a team fighting for their lives? (I did, incase you didn’t realize that was rhetorical) Wolves played like they were fighting for their lives, and although some of their challenges were questionable, I don’t fault them, as they played valiantly and really had the energy and spirit Fulham was sometimes lacking. I might as well just get into it.
Andy Johnson – He scored so quickly after coming into the match that my phone received the ESPN text alert of the goal before it got the text regarding the substitution. It wasn’t a perfect strike but Hennessey wasn’t really ready for it since it didn’t exactly come into the box on a perfect cross or clear scoring opportunity, so he was flat-footed and couldn’t get over to make the save. It was a shot in the arm for Fulham, one that I honestly didn’t expect to come.
Gael Kakuta – After coming on with Zamora and getting into a groove, he put in some seriously spirited shots. I believe if given a start, he would have found the back of the net. He really got comfortable with the match and started to create chances as well as attempt to finish them.
The defense – I will give Aaron Hughes a pass on the goal. Looking back on it, it wasn’t a horrible job, he just didn’t jump high enough to challenge Fletcher for the header and got beat. It wasn’t like anyone really messed up their marking or anything. I predicted we’d allow a goal anyways, and holding Wolves to 1 is just fine defensively in my opinion, it’s the offense that let the 2 points slip away. The rest of the match was well played by the back 4. In a very physical match, their challenges were good and accurate, unlike many of the midfielders’ challenges, and after the goal (especially in the 2nd half), they ended almost every Wolves buildup before it could gain any kind of headway.
Carlos Salcido – The defenseman had a few issues in defense, but his early strike left me incredibly surprised, and he had a few absolutely beautiful feeds of Dempsey and Dembele who were both off-target all day. I was happy with his play.
Despite the large number of free kicks given, I would have put referee Michael Oliver in here if it weren’t for the yellow card on Brede Hangeland for a perfectly fine challenge that actually won the ball (it also sent Mark Hughes to the stands for kicking a water bottle. It seems the former Manchester City star has lost a bit of his accuracy, taking three hacks before connecting his foot with the bottle. Was kind of a funny display. Nice to see him getting emotionally invested though, I like when managers have a fire about them such as that).
Mark Hughes – I put the blame on him. With 5 matches to go, it’s not about resting your starters, no matter what the next week’s schedule looks like. It’s about sucking it up, gritting it out, and grabbing as many points as you can. Hughes didn’t realize this, and he paid the price. Starting Eidur Gudjohnson and benching Zamora was an absolute atrocity of a mistake, even if Bobby apparently picked up a slight knock in training. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I was pretty upset about this right from the getgo.
Eidur Gudjohnsen - Failed to have an impact on the game, and was generally useless on the pitch. I realize he’s at this point no better than a backup, but I know he’s better than how he played. The attack as a whole is to blame for the lack of goal scoring, but at least Dembele and Dempsey had chances they came close on. EidGud was practically invisible. I can’t even remember any memorable touches he had.
Clint Dempsey – I only put him here because he had a few blantly obvious chances he misfired on. His accuracy was off, and it led to some pretty poor finishing from the normally dead-on-balls accurate midfielder (name the movie reference!).
Man of the Match:
This is a tough one, as many people played a part for both sides but no one really came out as a hero. I would say if I had to pick (and I do), I would go with Wolves captain Karl Henry, who played pretty darn good, physical defense, and kept his team together and although they didn’t win, they grabbed a pretty big point.
Going forward, this club has to go for it all, or they’re not going to get anywhere. Mark Hughes has to take smart risks, not stupid ones, and he has to play aggressively. He did neither of those today, and it cost the club. I realize I may be overly negative, but this is a bad draw. Let’s hope it doesn’t hurt the club going forward. If I had to pick, I still think Wolves will stay up, with West Ham, Blackpool, and Wigan going down.
Mark Hughes after the match:
“We’ve got to be pleased with taking something out of the game. From our point of view the worst-case scenario was to allow Wolves to score first. That’s what happened and it made a for hard day for us. If we’d have taken any one of the chances that we created early on I think we would have comfortably won the game. That would have caused Wolves to come out and try and get back on level terms and I think we would have very quickly picked them off. But because they had something to fight for and protect it was more difficult for us. But we kept going and thankfully we got something out of the game. It’s a difficult fixture on paper and we had to be strong today and show character to get back on level terms.”
Hughes is glass half full. Me, not so much. What are you?
We have a nice quick turnaround and play Bolton on Wednesday. Any thoughts from today? Are you feeling as negative as me after this match? Maybe Andy Johnson lifted your spirits and you’re happy with the result? Let’s hear em. If I find any other bits of news from the match, or interesting quotes from Sparky I will pass them along to you either here or on my Twitter, @FulhamsFinest.