Craven Cottage Calamity
A 4-2 Sunday afternoon defeat against newly promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage, a result we can hardly say was undeserved and you might struggle to find too much positivity in this match report.
It’s a while since I really wrote a negative report, but this was a very concerning result from a very concerning performance, particularly for a team that prides itself on its organisation, its framework and its ability to keep clean sheets. To concede four goals against an average looking Fulham side took our total number of goals conceded, from Sunday to Sunday, to a very worrying ten.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen us concede four goals at Fulham. I’ve seen a 4-1 defeat there and two 4-0 defeats and while this was nothing like as bad as our only previous Premier League game there, it left us in the away end with much to ponder and much to worry about.
The journey down had been largely uneventful although the further south we drove the worse the conditions got in the pouring rain. And, of course, they’d closed the closest underground station for the weekend which left us with the slightly longer walk from Parson’s Green to the ground.
I’m not sure why, but I quite like going to Fulham, this despite the fact that they seat us in a temporary stand behind the goal where our seats hardly left us with much of a view of the pitch. Thankfully, it was nowhere near full so we were able to move to gain a better view.
There was no surprise with the team news. It was the eleven who had started the two previous Premier League games this season which meant returns for Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Aaron Lennon and Ashley Westwood who had all either sat out the game or been used as substitutes against Olympiacos.
Hart’s first action was to pick the ball out of the net. With just four minutes gone, Jean Michael Seri fired home from distance and Fulham had the early initiative. All credit to us though, we got back in very quickly with Jeff Hendrick, again, for me, our best player, equalising having been played in by Lennon who had run on to a ball through from Westwood.
Things seem to be going from bad to worse and we lost Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson to an injury. Such is the state of our squad right now in terms of availability that we had to bring on a full back, Charlie Taylor, for him. However, for much of the remainder of the first half I thought we looked reasonably comfortable. Without ever threatening to go in front, we at least looked more than capable of keeping the home side out. We’d got within ten minutes of the break at 1-1 when disaster struck and took the game right away from us.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice in the space of just over two minutes and they really were dreadful goals from our point of view as he twice headed home far too easily, the first from a Tom Cairney cross and the second when the ball came in from the hugely impressive Luciano Vietto.
We needed to do something quickly, and we did. From a right wing corner taken by Taylor, Mee headed down and Tarkowski forced the ball home. He waited over two and a half years to score his first Burnley goal; the second came just seven days later.
So 3-2 at half time, and Fulham not that good, I really did think we had a real chance again of getting something from the game. What we didn’t want was a second half performance anything like those we saw against Watford and Olympiacos. That, unfortunately, was exactly what we got.
It was awful, it was dire, and we didn’t manage a solitary effort on target. Fulham, for the most part, just strolled through it although I’m sure if I’d been a Fulham supporter I’d have been wanting that fourth goal to make sure. At 3-2, we were always in with a chance.
That fourth came from Andre Schürrle, hitting home after a Mitrovic shot had come off the post. By then we just wanted the referee to blow and finally, after five minutes of stoppage time, he put us out of our misery.
Sean Dyche spoke about quality in the final third from us but we did score twice away from home, something we only managed six times last season in the Premier League. It’s obvious where the problems are and that’s at the other end where the once watertight defence has started conceding goals for fun.
But overall, this as an awful performance in every sense and against a side that I don’t think will break too many squares in the Premier League. I’m not too bothered about being in the bottom three after three games; I am concerned that we need to tighten up, stop conceding bad goals and getting back to what we are good at. And I’d rather not see four defenders on the bench.
At least the rain had gone as we made the walk back to the tube station, and the return journey was fine, despite having to change train due to a line closure.
We really do need to be much better than this and we need to start this week with our two big home games.
The teams were;
Fulham: Marcus Bettinelli, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Denis Odoi, Maxime Le Marchand, Joe Bryan (Calum Chambers 72), Jean Michael Seri, Kevin McDonald, Tom Cairney (André-Frank Zambo Anguissa 78), Andre Schürrle (Ryan Sessegnon 89), Aleksandar Mitrovic, Luciano Vietto. Subs not used: Fabri , Cyrus Christie, Stefan Johansen, Aboubakar Kamara.
Yellow Cards: Andre Schürrle, Marcus Bettinelli.
Burnley: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward (Ashley Barnes 66), Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Charlie Taylor 19), Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood (Sam Vokes 66). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson.
Yellow Card: James Tarkowski.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 23,438 (including 1,509 Clarets).
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