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From My Seat: Fulham (A)

By Ken Buckley   ::  04/11/2012 A trip out to The Cottage, where wins have not been the norm but, with a team in good shape, we strode through the park to the ground, full of confidence.

What transpired was almost unbelievable as the Blues totally dominated the opposition to such an extent that 8-0 or more should have been achieved. As it was, just two defensive howlers and the inability to score more than two of at least a quarter of a century of gilt-edged chances saw our record read four draws from last four matches. It would have been much better to have won two and lost two in points terms.

The half started with the Blues fast out of the traps and totally dominating, yet after just six minutes we were behind when Neville made a stupid unnecessary tackle that afforded the opposition a free kick just outside our box.

The Neville blunder was compounded by Howard when Ruiz floated the ball over the wall, no great pace but our keeper seemed late in picking the flight and managed only to push the ball onto the post and in off his back or so it looked from my seat. The language was choice around the faithful gathered. I believe that is the sixth match in a row where we have conceded in the first 15 mins after starting really well. Something needs looking at.

The rest of the half was one-way traffic as we pressed forward in waves but Fulham put up two banks of four and said "Let’s see what you have got" — which in truth was not much where it mattered: in that final third.

Tremendous joined-up approach play, interspersed with a few longer balls to try to turn their defence, failed to make their keeper make even one worthwhile save all first half. We still didn’t look great at the back when, after total domination, a simple three-man Fulham move saw Berbatov in; but for his shot going straight at Howard, we could have been two down.

Osman was creating well and following up to offer himself on the edge of the box for any cutbacks. Three came but all were well blocked by the home defence.
We forced corner after corner and all were either punched away by the keeper or headed clear by a determined rearguard.

Mirallas was raiding well down both flanks and causing problems but both Jelavic and Pienaar seem to be lacking form at the moment and were responsible for some very promising situations to pass by... none more than Jelavic who totally mistimed a tremendous Baines cross after great link up play with Pienaar and his header was... well, let’s just say miss-timed.

Coleman was raiding fast and well down the right but all too often his choice of cross was poor, often too near to the keeper or too low to bother a well marshalled defence. We had the sight of Jelavic being put in one-on-one by a bad Fulham back-pass but, where last season he would have clipped the ball over the keeper, he displayed all the hallmarks of a striker out of form and confidence by clearing angle of bar and post at the far stick.

Half-time came and how the Blues were still 0 - 1 we will never understand, only those in the 18-yard box could ever explain...

Second half and this was even more one-sided than the first as crisp joined-up football tore Fulham apart yet a goal would just not come. Mirallas was all dash and class as he got a great cross in that found Osman but his fine shot hit a defender. A Jags header across goal was somehow missed by both Heitinga and Fellaini from barely a yard out, incredible.

Then, 10 mins in, it happened. A goal made once again in Belgium as that man Mirallas raced down the right, I could see him look up and find Fellaini with a cut back cross to Fellaini who executed a fine side-foot volley and the net bulged. The faithful roared as Fellaini danced in front of them pointing to his name on the back of the shirt.

As often happens, as soon as we had levelled, Fulham got forward and Berbatov got a strong shot in at the near post which Howard did extremely well to palm away, a great save that somehow sums him up to me. Great shot-stopper touch; dodgy in assessing things with time on his hands.

For a short spell, Fulham increased in tempo and had us on the back foot... but this soon passed as our superior all-around play had us dominating again, with Mirallas to the fore, and one great cross saw the keeper just fingertip the ball away from Pienaar, who would've had a tap-in. That should've been the case for Jelavic, but he had not done the striker thing and anticipated that a half-chance may occur and race in; instead, he just hung out near the corner of the box.

Fellaini then fed Jelavic in the box and he was unfortunate to have the ball whipped away by a wide awake defender just as he was pulling the trigger. Mirallas did more good work and worked himself a shooting chance but blasted well off target. See – it can happen to the best. Mirallas then raided twice more and got in crosses, the first was just a little behind Osman who had tracked his run but the ball flew over; then the second was a cross that seemed to evade everyone and go right across the box.

Surely a goal had to come... and, on the 70-min mark, it did. Jags picked out Fellaini with a long ball that suits the build of the Belgian and scares defenders, he controlled and turned all in one movement and rifled the ball past a static keeper and into the net. Pandemonium broke out followed by all the songs we know as surely we had won it now, such was the gulf between both teams.

We continued to press and the best of these moves saw Fellaini hit a post but the ball came back at Naismith quickly and he was unable to get any real power and the ball was hacked away. Naismith was just on for Mirallas who had shone throughout and I thought it was a pity that the manager had found the need for the change but he may have been feeling the kicks he took last week.

Fellaini then volleyed a great Naismith cross and "GOAL!" died in our throats as the keeper made a great save.

Just on the 90-min mark Distin replaced Jelavic and I could see the reasoning behind that as Fulham were going for broke and the tall Hangeland was pushed upfront... yet something nagged at me that Fulham, seeing a front man go off to make way for a defender, would send even more forward and maybe get a reward.

This didn’t look likely as we went into injury time until Coleman showed his inexperience and defending nous in these last tense situations and got caught on the ball when it should have been long gone – indeed, a Gerrard-defined Stoke-like hoof was called for. Instead, Fulham took the ball from him and broke down their right and the cross evaded everyone across the box until Sidwell poked home at the far post with Coleman all at sea.

The silence of the faithful was deafening. We had done enough to win 20 matches but ended up with a 2-2 draw – Gutting!

MotM – Osman, Mirallas or Fellaini. Best three players on the pitch—take your pick.

Overall, a great display by the Blues. They looked a top side in all departments, except for that vital deadly ice cool head in the opposition box, and a propensity for defenders to make crucial errors at crucial times. A scenario that separates the very best from the very good.

All is not lost as plenty of games still to go; even with our frailties, we are in a decent position to kick on. We will need to believe that form is temporary and class is permanent for I believe, when we do manage to click in all departments, some poor team is going to get a hiding.

Sunderland next weekend and a sure three points – so bound to be a draw!. See you there to find out...
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Dennis Stevens
149 Posted 04/11/2012 at 16:44:24
Thanks for the ever excellent match report, Ken. The sense of frustration is so palpable it almost makes me glad I was at work instead of attending one of my favourite away trips.
Christopher Timmins
151 Posted 04/11/2012 at 17:11:29
Ken,

Thanks as always for the report. Hopefully, the table at the end of the season looks like it does this evening!

Remember todate 6 away and 4 at home!

Joe McMahon
166 Posted 04/11/2012 at 19:04:12
Goos summary Ken. It is concerning regarding Jelavic, he's not the player he seemed a few months ago. Mi
If only we could have 20 mill (nothing to many teams) to spend in Jan we could defo get 4th spot and open welcome CL football and possibly a new owner.......if only eh!
Also what a buy Mirallas has been, he seems very driven.
Spencer Ramsay
168 Posted 04/11/2012 at 18:56:37
Great report as always Ken. Pretty much how I saw it too. Gutted Felli didnt get his hatrick with that 1st time volley from Nace's cross. I think the roof wld have come off if that one had gone in!

I came away from the ground feeling as if we'd lost! I lost count of the amount of times I heard the word 'robbed'....although I think half of those were mine!

Still completely gutted & watching Sky highlights just compounded it.

On the upside though it was great to see such a team performance. I don't think any player was poor save for perhaps Jelly who looks out of sorts. Even Neville had a reasonable game I thought. Mirallas was magic at times & Felli.....well he bossed it didnt he. Can't help feeling we're going to lose him in Jan though. Osman had a fantastic game.
J
If we can perforjm like that next week with any luck it should be a case of how many will we get!

COYB!!

Bob Parrington
201 Posted 04/11/2012 at 22:00:41
As always, good report Ken. Jelavic looks like his confidence has taken a dive for some reason. For whatever reason, this regularly happens with players ans seems most pronounced in strikers. let's hope he gets back to form quickly!
COYB
Steve O'Malley
217 Posted 05/11/2012 at 01:40:39
Ken, you summed up Howard perfectly. Given the number of goals that the bloke has been at fault for I find it hard to believe that we still do not have someone to take his place. He is obviously the first man on the team sheet, no pressure for his position.

I don't care what people say, Nevill's foul on Berbatov was a stupid foul but that ball should never have ended up in the back of the net. If you watch Howard carefully he obviously thinks there is a chance he may collide with the post or something and makes a half hearted dive at the ball. His brilliant stop later on does not make up for it.

Jelavic will be back we just have to accept he is going through a tough little spell plus he has a few guys around him now that also want to score rather than pass, ie, Mirallas, Fellaini, Pienaar and dare I say it Osman.
Jim Harrison
219 Posted 05/11/2012 at 02:05:38
Always a pleasure to read your reports Ken, thanks for the time you spend on them.

Horrible conclusion to the game. The joy of coming from a goal down, watching Fulham get battered completely sucked away by a silly mistake.

Fair play to Moyes, he has the team going forwards and attacking, just needs to get an extra striker in to provide cover. I though Vic could have been useful at the end, but alas he was ill. Why was Vellios not even in the squad?

Anto Byrne
222 Posted 05/11/2012 at 02:22:22
Fulham rode their luck, they are a good side and thats the way they play, strong at the back and with 8 back it wasnt an open game. We played in their half and it made us look very good but they defended very well and they also have a very good keeper.

We should have done better with the 4or5 clear cut chances and there is nothing you can do when the keeper saves everything. At 2-1 and 89mins gone the tactic should have been everyone back and if your going to take off a striker at least put a fresh pair of legs and keep that attacking threat from the hoofed clearances going. I also thought the Ref was outstanding today for a change.

Let's hope that over the next 10 games we can garner another 17-20pts and remain unbeaten.
Keith Glazzard
223 Posted 05/11/2012 at 03:23:33
TW's the best, and your report is always worth waiting an hour or two for Ken. My elbows aren't as sharp as they used to be to get into the crush.

I see the Jelavic situation very simply. A few weeks delayed, he slotted into a system which assumed that Saha was in a position to score from a well-worked move and pull-back into the box. Unfortunately King Louis was on the half way line at the time for reasons best known to himself.

This system suited Nikica perfectly, and his goals showed it. Things have changed. Mirallas - no criticism this - is all over the place. Fellaini has gone from being good to God, and Pienaar doesn't think he has to work with Baines anymore. And misplaced more passes on Sunday than in his entire career for us.

Ossie - not impossible as a player of the season - should be hitting them at goal. But not on his left foot from 20 yards. He should be looking for a pass which will go, not directly, but on to Jelavic to finish. If they all think they can score any time, good, and if they do, absolutely bloody fantastic. But if they don't, all the possession and pressure comes to zero.

End of rant. We are still one of the very best teams in the league, with much more to come. We believe Ken. And will continue to do so until proven wrong.

COYB

Ethan Maddison
228 Posted 05/11/2012 at 04:56:53
Sitting inside Craven Cottage yesterday, watching Everton play really positive football, I really enjoyed watching us not stop pressing for more goals, and not letting our heads go down after conceding the early goal.

Mirallas was excellent as always; I really hope Moyes did not just take him off for the plain reason that he wanted to make a sub because, when he came off, I believe, except for the Fellaini chance, that we lacked what we had created throughout the game.

Fellaini was back to his attacking self; I think you could tell the whole team were playing well and wanted to attack. At the same time, we could defend as well. I hope Everton continue in this way and score and create as many chances but, at the same time, do not let in too many.

Steve Burgess
233 Posted 05/11/2012 at 07:34:01
Great match report, Ken.

I can't help thinking that between Pienaar and Baines we have the best left side in the Prem. Whilst Mirallas looked great on the left, does this mess up that combo? Would we do even better if Mirallas focused on right wing and if so does Coleman have a place? Would a better defender such as Hibbert help balance the team? It's a nice problem for Moyes to have when we compare our form with a year ago.

Despite the continual clogg he gets on TW, Osman looks like a key part of our midfield, knitting moves together and picking the ball up around the box. I would love to see how this pans out with Gibson anchoring midfield when Pienaar, Mirallas, Osman and Fellaini terrorise the opposition.
Kevin Gillen
243 Posted 05/11/2012 at 11:14:29
First of all, thanks Ken for the report. I'm proud to be an Evertonian after a display like that. Fulham are a good side that have started well and to completely dominate them in that way was quite an achievement. Really enjoyed Martin Jol's comments on the iPlayer.

Some observations mind. The first goal really should have been saved by the keeper and that is now becoming an issue (Newcastle and Southampton were examples of poor keeping although he did brilliantly at Swansea). Howard needs to improve.

Secondly, I could not believe my eyes with Heitinga. Why did he not bang the cross in in the early moments of the second half? He appeared to me to get out of the way. How did he let Berbatov in and then allow a shot on goal after we had equalised and what the hell was he doing for the last cross? He just seemed to me to let it run. I'm not convinced at all by him, his time is up come the transfer window. I've watched the game four times and just cannot understand his contribution, please, if anyone doubts me, watch the game again.

Jelavic didn't have a good game yes and Naismith should have scored twice (noted by Moyes in his post match comments). But overall we were superb again and always seem to have a man showing for the ball. I'm frustrated that we are not top!!
Duncan McDine
248 Posted 05/11/2012 at 12:16:14
Thanks for the report Ken, great read.

For all the excellent performances, I have to ask what the general feeling is on Heitinga? He seems to go up and down in my expectations, but for me he has to be 3rd choice centre half at the moment.

Jags seemed to be making up for him all through the match (from what I saw on highlights). Trouble is, Distin isn't in top form either

Sam Hoare
252 Posted 05/11/2012 at 13:17:25
Duncan, for me we should get rid of Heitinga in Jan. His contract is running down plus I think he's our highest earner. He's not Euro cup tied and is a world cup finalist so should be able to get a decent wedge for him, maybe £6m-7m. Bring in someone younger and quicker to challenge Distin and Jagielka. Maybe Douglas from Twente for example? He'd be on half the reported £60 k that Johnny is on.
Stephen Sharp
253 Posted 05/11/2012 at 13:16:37
Hi Guys,

Fulham fan here. What can I say Best Team seen at CC this year – better than Man City, better than Man Utd – because you play like a team. No Billy big bollocks – just a team with a collective spirit, playing for each other; playing for the Manager and of course, playing for the well travelled and brilliant Everton fans.

You deserved a victory of course, but these things happen. We should have beaten you last season at the Cottage, but some how manged to lose 3-1.

With Osman (underrated player) Fellaini and Baines you have the core of a top four team – your challenge will be keeping two of those three.

What has happened to Jelavic? When I was at GP last season he was immense, scored a couple didn't he? 4-0 as I recall.

Anyway, I hope you get the fourth spot, I always had a soft spot for your club, and yes, I will be at GP later this season, when no doubt you will beat us again!

Tom Bowers
255 Posted 05/11/2012 at 13:42:46
Heitinga can only be let go if we have cover. It seems Duffy may not be ready and Distin (still good in the air) is getting a little slower these days. However, if Heitinga is wanting a move there is little they can do.

Distin will have to be the go-to guy (hoping he doesn't get injured) with Duffy as the backup.

Jela is still a great target man and makes space for others, in particular Fella who is relishing his forward switch. I have no concerns about Jela.
Keith Glazzard
266 Posted 05/11/2012 at 15:41:59
Stephen Sharp (253) Thank you for that. You didn't have to do anything at all so thanks for the effort.

Overall it was a very good game of football - I'm in Spain for a while and see a lot of quality on the TV. Our game on Saturday was a credit to the EPL, a credit to the home of football. And it takes two to tango!

Barry Rathbone
273 Posted 05/11/2012 at 16:13:01
Stephen Sharp, thank you and good luck.
Brent Stephens
274 Posted 05/11/2012 at 16:18:12
Stephen Sharp. Good man. A footballing mind to go with your name!
Brian Garside
318 Posted 05/11/2012 at 19:18:06
I used to like JH. It seems he now, when played, contrives to loose us the game. Defensively he has gone from king to clown. His positional play has deteriorated to such an extent that Jagielka's head almost fell off with the intensity of the telling off he dealt out to JH. His tackling is no longer what it was.

As for attitude, where has the JH who shoulder charged Cashly Cole as he walked up to take his penalty at The Bridge? Can there be an explanation why he contrived to jump over the ball half a meter off the goal line as he ran in front of Fellaini?

To crown it all, he had a hug in with Jol as they walked off the pitch. Arsenal are angry with the behaviour of Santos. Should we also react?

Now is it time to start blooding Duffy. Play for the present and the future. I don't think we will need Dawson.
Patrick Murphy
320 Posted 05/11/2012 at 19:33:43
It may be JH's LOOSE marking that may cause Everton to LOSE football games.

I'm sorry to all of you who use Loose as a way of describing an Everton loss.
But if I lose my way I hope not to meet a mad-axeman on the loose.

Duncan McDine
321 Posted 05/11/2012 at 19:40:17
Thanks for the feedback on Heitinga... I have to agree that his days should be numbered, mainly for his apparent poor attitude. I would be shocked if he went for more than £4 or 5 mil but that is roughly what we paid for him.

Fair play to the Fulham fella too.

Graham Hammond
532 Posted 07/11/2012 at 18:58:27
Sam #252

Have to agree with you all the way mate, Heitinga to be Sold in January!

Just hope Distin and Jagielka do not sustain bad injuries in the meantime or thereafter. Therein lies the risk I guess!

Would disagree a little on your valuation of JH, feel we would do well to bring in £4M to be honest. Hope you are right and I am wrong!

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