Fulham - Ten years after

Posted by Phil Mison

Dimitar Berbatov chooses not to celebrate after scoring Fulham's winner at old club SpursGettyImagesDimitar Berbatov chooses not to celebrate after scoring Fulham's winner at old club Spurs

We have doggedly been trekking over to North London for league and cup encounters at White Hart Lane since 2003 without managing a win. My preview piece was titled 'Where's Barry?' but that must have mystified the junior sub-editors as it got changed to something more mainstream.

All the hustle and bustle you ever needed was provided that glorious afternoon back in August 2003 by those Fulham heroes of yesteryear - Barry Hayles (2) and Luis Boa Morte our goalscorers in a stonking 3-0 success. Now, and glory hallelujah I say, just when we least expected it, Fulham pop up with the result of the weekend. Our 1-0 success this time achieved in far more workmanlike style than the one a decade ago, but no less satisfying. Match previews threw up a welter of statistics as to why this would be just another road loss in Fulham's season of toil. But high-riding Spurs were frustrated, nullified and nailed by Dimitar Berbatov's 11th goal of the season (from 24 games) as the Whites took three excellent points.

Scuffed across the keeper at the near post it may have been, but prior to that there were two pieces of excellent play as Fulham swept the length of the pitch to set up the moment that mattered from our one real attack of note in the game. Sascha Riether carried the ball upfield at pace from the keeper's roll-out, one delightful feint and turn from Ashkan Dejagah took two men out of the game, he laid the perfect pass further up the wing for Sascha to cross first time at speed and Spurs were undone.

Barely has interest in the Chelyabinsk meteorite subsided and here we had another rarely observed phenomenon striking North London on a wet Sunday at 16.14. Scientists quickly established the spherical object nestling in the Tottenham net weighed some 15 ounces and consisted largely of synthetic plastic. This ball of matter has been glimpsed only by a lucky few this millennium and has been tagged by experts a 'Fulham away goal at White Hart Lane'. Science is split as to whether we may be visited by more of the same in weeks to come or if this is a one off.

Fortunately, unlike the meteor over the Urals that broke up spectacularly with a blinding flash and a shockwave that left hundreds needing treatment from flying debris, police report only a Sid and Doris Bonkers (of Neasden fame) needed resuscitation at the ground after fainting at the sight of Fulham going one up.

Back to reality. This was a workmanlike yet commendable team performance of industry, with no standout individual performance, but where every man in black did his job. AVB wasn't moaning at the final whistle, he was also quick to refute the lazy line that will feature in most copy that Spurs were 'tired'. Spurs lacked creativity he said. True enough. But that was because we did a terrific job in closing them down.

When Spurs did get through Mark made two excellent saves – his second at the death to deny Jermaine Defoe from point-blank range Schwarzer's save of the season. I have never seen Emmanuel Adebayor so comprehensively neutered. Gareth Bale may have been hampered by an ankle knock, he clearly wasn't prepared to run with rapier thrusts at us in the 2nd half, but we bottled him up effectively. As to our two former favourites – Mousa Dembele was withdrawn, and for all the input he mustered Clint might as well have swapped roles with a ball boy.

Where to pin-point the upturn in form? Before we get carried away, let's not forget Hugo Lloris was given absolutely nothing to do except pick Dimi's winner out of the net. The first-half was a borefest and the first save of the game arrived in the 51st minute. Apart from the result, that will sustain all Whites fans up to the QPR ding-dong, the fare offered for the admission money again showed how poor much EPL play has been this season.

Football at this level is for the majority of sides a game of fine margins. This is now Martin's first team. When, by his own admission, he was ringing the changes week on week searching for the X factor last autumn, is it any wonder we started looking like a bag of spanners?

Since the turn of the year we've won four, drawn three and lost only two (both Manchester clubs). If this win at White Hart Lane showed anything, it is that time invested on the training pitch is now paying dividends. We remain a work in progress both in midfield and offensively, but this clean sheet at Spurs shows we have regained control again defensively. The passing today was crisper, our play less error-strewn. Those green shoots of recovery, plus the three oh-so-welcome points bode well for the run in now our status is all but assured.

A weekend where Fulham win a London derby away from Craven Cottage against a side running 3rd in the league, and QPR lose to stay rock bottom – what could be sweeter? That little goat did not die in vain... COYW!



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