Drowning not waving

Posted by Phil Mison

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge scores against Fulham.AP / Sang Tan In Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, Phil Mison sees exactly what Fulham are missing.

On the other side of the borough, Harry Redknapp ruled out any lap of honour from his relegated troops as QPR prepare for life back in the Championship. Rock bottom Rangers, after a season of woe for their long-suffering supporters, served up nine home defeats at Loftus Road.

After the Whites were soundly beaten 3-1 by Liverpool in their last home appearance, our fans too have now suffered the same number of nine losses at Craven Cottage - or as we used to call it, "Fortress Fulham". What a difficult season this has been to endure. The worst in five years. Without our goalie's three penalty saves this season, we would be down!

Our lads did in fact sheepishly take to the pitch for a sombre and low-key 'salute to the fans', though thousands had by then already voted with their feet and headed for home. The players wisely stayed away from the perimeter, avoided too much eye contact, and were no doubt relieved to get back into the dressing room. It all made for an uncomfortable scene.

Sliding to a 5th successive league loss, a return of one solitary point from the last 21, and a fourth straight loss at home, our worst ever run in the Premiership, means however you want to view the glass at Fulham, this has been a torrid campaign - and we've one final act still to play out before the corpse can be dragged off-stage.

Daniel Sturridge was the game changer here. He had in spades that essential commodity so sorely lacking in the Fulham ranks - raw pace. Martin Jol's not managed to inject any into his formations all season, but Sturridge had pace to burn. Liverpool could easily have run up six as Mark Schwartzer was horribly exposed and our embarrassment would have been even greater. Gazelles gambolled with donkeys. When John Arne Riise was sent on with ten minutes left and the Whites trailing, I just laughed ... it summed up the day.

Yes, we might have had a penalty, and maybe Sebastian Coates got away with a foul on Alex Kacaniklic as he sprinted through the middle, but second best we remained for 80% of the game. Liverpool twice struck the woodwork and were profligate in front of goal. All this as well without their biggest stars to boot.

Incredibly, the gaffer came out to tell the press: 'The effort we put in against Chelsea and Arsenal and today shows there is nothing wrong with our approach and mentality.' Am I losing my sanity here? Three changes to the side made no difference whatsoever in raising standards.

Agreed we were still at the races at the interval having scored first. Admittedly it was against the run of play, but Sascha Riether swung a cross right onto Dimi's head and Berbatov could not miss. Class told however, Brendan Rodgers switched his tactics at half-time to 4-4-2 and Fulham's tired legs got found out again.

In the first 45, Liverpool played us just as Reading had last week. Width offered by the wing-backs, balls played up from the centre circle into the channels while our back four stood off and defended from the 18 yard line. This build up play possible, just so long as we fail to press the midfield - where we carry two lightweights in Bryan Ruiz and Gorgios Karagounis, both culpable of giving the ball up easily, while Eyong Enoh cannot plug all the holes and make every tackle.

Once we try to chase the game and step up to a higher line, we are all too easily picked off by long balls over the top. It's all academic this late in the season now, but what is Jol doing with his substitutes?

Mladen Petric had twenty minutes game time and can anyone please flag up one single positive contribution he made? Why does Hugo Rodallega not get on the pitch at all? What is the point in even selecting Damien Duff for the first team? And how can we go into games like this without Chris Baird on the bench?

I could labour on, but what's the point? We are just repeating ourselves. Jol has long since run out of ideas and moves ever closer to the exit door. "We will need five or six players over the summer just to get the numbers up, and we may need to be very creative again in the market."

For 'creative' read desperate. Planning and logic have gone out the window. It's in the hands of the board now to do the right thing. Otherwise this time next year it will be FFC emulating Rangers. And I would still be following the team till my dying day.

But it doesn't have to be this way.






ESPN Conversations