FtF goes to West Ham

Going to West Ham is a reminder of what football should be like. A stadium right in the heart of the community, not on some souless industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, with thousands of people on the streets and the pubs and chippies packed out. Much like our own little corner of London. The whole way down to the Boleyn Ground is crammed full of matchday entrepreneurs who have turned their front gardens into stalls selling burgers, scarves, books and badges. It’s great.

The atmosphere is normally first rate, although it was largely muted yesterday afternoon. I don’t know whether it was the financial question marks hanging over the club, the ongoing Tevez saga or the impending departure of Craig Bellamy, but the home crowd just didn’t seem ‘up for it’, with the honourable exception of about six blokes and one woman in the stand nearest the away end.

Welcoming stewards (although putting up signs directing away fans round the back would be a good idea) who actually smiled were a pleasant change from the usual grim-faced snarlers encountered at most grounds, and some decent banter made the day enjoyable (result notwithstanding, obviously).

Best moment of the day
Paul Konchesky’s thunderbolt on 22 minutes. What a strike!

Chant watch
Not a great deal but here’s what we heard:

From West Ham
“There’s only one Vicky Pollard” – aimed at one poor unfortunate in our end
“You only stand when you’re leaving” – as away fans headed for the exits
“F*** off Craig Bellamy”
“Bellamy, Bellamy, you’re a ****”
“Who needs Craig Bellamy?” – there’s a theme starting here
“We hate Chelsea more than you”

From Fulham
“You live in poverty”
“Who’s the w***** in the green” – some poor soul singled out
“We love Craig Bellamy”
“Chesky from the half way line!”
“There’s only four of you singing…”

Bizarre moment of the day
A rather strange ‘Pride of Yorkshire…BFC’ sticker with the face of the Yorkshire Ripper was in the toilets, presumably from Barnsley’s visit a few weeks back. Weird!

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West Ham v Fulham: Player rankings

Here’s how I scored our lads following yesterday’s dismal display.

Schwarzer – 6/10
To be fair he didn’t have much chance with any of the goals but was unable to provide the heroics needed in the absence of anything resembling a defence.

Pantsil – 4/10
Oh dear. John may be a crowd favourite but he had a mare. His casual chesting back to Schwarzer was pretty unforgiveable.

Hangeland – 7/10
Another towering display by our Norwegian giant – even though the backline shifted three. He made some timely interventions that saved this from being a rout.

Hughes – 5/10
Quietly efficient throughout most of the game, although he could have done better when Cole brushed him aside to slot in number three.

Konchesky – 5/10
What a goal! That aside he was off colour yesterday and his dithering on the ball and subsequent foul on Cole gave us a mountain to climb. Was very lucky not to receive a straight red.

Davies – 4/10
Squeezed out of the game and made no impact whatsoever.

Etuhu – 5/10
Average at best. Distribution was poor – especially when he gifted West Ham the break from which they put the game out of our reach – and I cannot see why he gets in ahead of Andreason.

Murphy – 7/10
Tried everything he could but was failed by those around him. Frankly looks a bit lost without Bullard alongside him.

Dempsey – 6/10
Maximum effort as usual, but didn’t really get him anywhere. Some nice touches, then some awful touches. Found himself ‘out-muscled’ (as Big Ron would say), which is a rarity to be fair.

Zamora – 3/10
Shocking stuff. He failed to hold the ball up, his distribution was weak and his finishing wasn’t even pub team standard. The only shock was Hodgson kept him on for so long.

Johnson – 6/10
Ran his heart out for the cause but just wasn’t given the service and the only efforts he had were pretty weak.

Substitutes
Nevland – 6/10
Looked sharp when he came on but should have been given longer.

Andreason – 6/10
Not given very long but looked solid and must be a contender to start the next match.

Gera – 5/10
Didn’t do much of note but was, at least, an improvement on the under par Davies.

Man of the match: Tough one this, to be honest, but Hangeland is just about worthy of the accolade.

Woeful Fulham lose to West Ham

Maybe the sun was in their eyes. Maybe it was the two week break since the last match. Whatever it was that spooked our boys yesterday afternoon, the net result was one of the worst displays witnessed for months.

A catalogue of defensive errors, sloppy passing and woeful finishing (yes, you Bobby) meant we left the Boleyn Ground with exactly what we deserved: nothing. Make no mistake. The home side totally dominated and thorougly deserved the three points.

Very few of our lads emerged with any credit from this encounter which brought to an end the unbeaten run that had stretched back to November. With the exception of the ever-reliable Hangeland, who made a number of fine interventions; Johnson, who ran his heart out; and Murphy who tried – in vain – to control the midfield, everyone was  lethargic and clueless.

When Pantsil half-heartedly cushioned the ball back to Schwarzer in the seventh minute without realising Di Michele was lurking behind him, it should have acted as an alarm bell for our backline but this, as we were to witness in the second half, sadly that wasn’t the case .

Snuggled in between the defensive lapses was Konchesky’s fantastic strike – which was even applauded by the home fans. A thunderbolt from outside the area that swerved into the top left corner, giving keeper Green absolutely no chance.

We started the second half slightly brighter, although we badly missed Bullard’s creative influence in midfield. After all, there’s only so much Murphy can do with everyone around him playing musical statues.

Then poor old Konch went from hero to villain as he dithered on the ball, was robbed by Carlton Cole and then ended up slicing the Hammers’ front man down in the area. Penalty. 2-1. Shortly afterwards Etuhu was guilty of making the sloppiest of passes to let West Ham in for number three, effectively killing the game off with a third of the half still to play.

So all in all it was a very disappointing day at the office. A lacklustre display on the pitch and a fairly muted atmosphere in the stands. Let’s hope the defensive frailties that were so horribly exposed will be sorted in time for our trip to Kettering, let alone the visit of Portsmouth at the end of January.

Pompey coverage

Here are links to our coverage of yesterday’s momentous day:

FtF goes to Pompey

Player rankings

FtF goes to Pompey

I woke up yesterday morning in a terrible mood to be honest. I was totally convinced that we’d scrape a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth and Reading would trounce Derby, a result that would have sent us down to the Championship. This state of mind lasted throughout the two hour drive along the south coast…and for most of the match!

After finding a free car parking space two minutes away from the ground (I won’t list the place here as I want it for next season, too, but any readers wanting the heads-up should email me!) we headed for McDonalds as there were still three hours to go before kick off.

In the restaurant we met Paul Konchesky’s family – including his Dad and two boys – who were very gracious. They said everyone in the team was nervous about the match and just wanted to get on with it. We felt the same.

Into the ground as soon as the gates opened and what a refreshing change. The police were friendly, the stewards were smiling (learn from them Fulham) and we weren’t even strip-searched for our bottle tops. Amazing stuff.

Just before 2pm Al Fayed came into view and was serenaded with the ‘QPR chant’, at which point he came over and gave us a wave. Very few chairman are held in such high regard and the warmth from us fans was genuine.

Waiting for three o’clock to come round was agony. The fans – 2,000, 3000? – were in great voice, though, and went through the entire repertoire of songs, including long-overdue anthems for both Simon Davies and Brede Hangeland.

When kick off finally came it signalled the start of 75 minutes of sheer hell, followed by 15 of nail biting terror – but looking back it was worth every minute. Pompey certainly couldn’t be accused of letting us win, they were all over us like a rash and how we held out I will never know.

The home supporters, who were fantastic to us throughout the day, even patiently waited as we saluted our heros after the final whistle before they could welcome their own team back out onto the pitch for the traditional end of season lap of honour.

Both Sean Davis and Papa Bouba Diop got great receptions from us which was great to see. They were both good servants to our club – particularly Sean, who was given a rousing rendition of: Who put the ball in the Blackburn net?

Bully and Murphy then came out again to clap the fans that had stayed behind. We then chanted: We want Roy, We want Roy – and finally our manager appeared and came over. What a reserved man he is eh? No glory taking, just quietly fitting into the background. He looked genuinely pleased with the reception he was getting which was thoroughly deserved.

McBride and Healy then came out as well before it was finally time to leave the ground. Personally I would have preferred to have stayed there all night!

Outside we gathered behind a barrier near the Fulham coach where a good number of the players, including Boca, Hangeland, McBride, Healy, Murphy and Bullard came over to sign autographs…we managed to get Hangeland and Brian’s – both of which will soon be on the wall!

An amusing song/carol for Healy too which went along the lines of:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the night sky look down where he-leay, he-leay, he-leay!!

On the way back to the car we met with Brian (and his lovely wife) shook his hand and thanked him for everything. A true gent and a Fulham legend without a doubt.

Needless to say the journey back home was the complete opposite of the earlier trip. Radio Five Live blasting out, chatting, joking, singing. Great stuff and a wonderful, fairy tale ending to a pulsating, frustrating season. I can’t wait for August…

Post mortem: Reading v Fulham

A few assorted things, events, comments, that either happened or came to mind during the trip to the Madejski…

1. Amusing pre-match moment: The Reading fans proudly passing the flag over their head – but failing to notice it was upside down. We serenaded them with: You don’t know what you’re doing!
2. The poor, tubby stewards who were told to climb up the 1001 steps to the top of the stadium to tell those at the back to sit down, only to find they were already sitting by the time they arrived. By the time they returned the fans were up and the process started all over again.

3. The same stewards failing to notice extra fans were squeezed two-on-a-seat so they could be at the very back. Either that or they chose to ignore it.

4. The stadium announcer who read the Fulham team out like he was at a funeral and then switched to a ‘Smashy and Nicey’ over-excited radio DJ voice when it came to the Reading names. Hilarious.

5. The chorus of “We can see you sneaking out!” as the Reading fans went off for their half time pie and pint.

6. Chant of the season: “We’ve hit it three times, that fu***ng crossbar, we’ve hit it three times”. Full marks to whoever made that up.

7. Liam Rosenior. Great to see him and he clapped us when he sang his name. However, he played dreadfully. Surely he was better than that when he played for us?

8. Marcus Hahneman: Some nice comments about the club during the week from the big fella who made two outstanding saves to keep the score down.

9. Alan Mullery’s outspoken comments about why our season has gone wrong so far. Guess he’s not wanting to be friends with Joe Kamara…

10. Full credit to the players for coming over to applaud us at the end and for throwing their shirts into the crowd. Top stuff.

11. Very magnanimous comments from Steve Coppell at the end saying we deserved the win. Can you imagine Moyes, Curbishley, etc, saying anything similar?

Fulham win AWAY!!!

“Keep the Faith. FFC.” It was a simple message scrawled on the toilet wall at Reading’s Madejski Stadium, but it was enough to remind us that our season is not over…not yet at least.

This was a team that scrapped for every ball; refused to give in; and emerged worthy winners after 90 of the most gripping, nail biting minutes of the season.

So good was this performance; so polished was the passing and so clinical the finishing for the goals, it was hard to believe that we had not enjoyed a victory on the road for 19 months.

“We’re winning away, how shit must you be, we’re winning away”, baited the Fulham faithful after McGod crashed the opener home from a Simon Davies cross.

Funny as it was, this was actually harsh on our lads who had thoroughly deserved the lead. Non-stop running, non-stop attacking and full of heart. Terrific stuff.

We then had a string of chances to put the game out of Reading’s reach with Brian, Hangeland and Bully all going close with a shot, header and free kick, respectively.

“We’ve hit it three times, that f****ng crossbar, we’ve hit it three times” we sang, followed by: “The bar! We’re gonna hit the bar” after being awarded a free kick just outside the area.

The disbelief that referee Rob Stiles decided we needed four extra minutes – FOUR!!!! – was soon forgotten as Erik “the Viking” Nevland charged through and secured the three points.

“The Whites are staying up!” we sang, more in hope than expectation. Disappointingly news filtered through that Bolton had beaten the hammers but Brum’s draw with Everton gave us a lift.

We are now just four points from safety but while that’s great, the feeling still remains of what might have been. Wins against Derby and Sunderland and we’d be out of the relegation places. Agonising.