Craven Cottage Christmas Cracker
Christmas came early for the Clarets yesterday with a 2-0 win at Fulham, just our third league win of this 2023/24 season as we approach its half way stage.
Second half goals from Wilson Odobert and Sander Berge, his first in the Premier League for us, saw us through to a comfortable victory to bring hope as we moved within three points of safety.
It was back on the road for me after illness had kept me away from the previous two games, and a 7:30 a.m. start from Burnley which, with one stop, got us to our chosen parking spot not long after noon with a one hour plus underground journey to Putney Bridge.
There was time to chat to some friends outside before making our way in. We mingled alongside Fulham fans both outside and then inside. It’s so different from other places in the Premier League. You never see any animosity around the place, you get the impression it’s more like a social occasion for them, and once inside we found ourselves sat right next to the home supporters with no barriers of any kind, just a couple of kindly stewards.
The players were warming up when we got inside and I noticed immediately that we were wearing the yellow kit. Burnley in light coloured shirt and black shorts against a Fulham team in white shirts and black shorts. I’m not sure how that might affect people with colour blindness but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be watching it in black and white. I wondered whether we’d ever played at Fulham in a change kit; the answer is yes, in 1998 when we wore the away kit for the 4-0 defeat there.
The players warming up were showing two changes from the team beaten by Everton. Charlie Taylor was back from suspension and in his left-back berth while Lyle Foster got his first start since he played six miles down the road at Brentford back in October. Hannes Delcroix and Jay Rodriguez were the two to drop out; both were on the bench.
Willian, who always seemed to play well against us for Chelsea, was ruled out of the Fulham side and they were also without the suspended Raúl Jiménez although there is no doubt they still lined up with a very strong looking team.
It was Fulham who then took hold of the contest and three times it did look as though we might concede the opening goal. Harry Wilson twice was close. He moved into our box past a number of defenders before shooting side and the saw a goal bound effort saved well by James Trafford. The goalkeeper was doing well and saved twice more to deny João Palhinha and Alex Iwobi.
We were defending frantically with Trafford again, as he’d done in the last away game at Brighton, looking in good form, but Fulham remained the more likely. We had one more half chance just before half time but the first half ended with some major defending and blocking required as we managed to keep the ball out. There was one big home shout for a penalty but it wasn’t given on the field with no response from VAR.
We went in level at 0-0 and there is no doubt that we could probably count ourselves fortunate. But, it meant we were still very much in the game as we came out for the second half.
And what a dramatic start it was to the second half. We might have conceded, we came close to scoring and then did score and all within the first two minutes of the half. Fulham kicked off and got the ball forward but it was easily collected by Trafford. We then made a right pig’s ear of trying to play out from the back but we got away with it.
From there we moved the ball down the right where Vitinho squared it for Foster to get a touch to Zeki Amdouni who fired a shot just wide. Now Fulham tried to play out but Amdouni nicked the ball off them and got it to Odobert. He played a lovely one-two with Foster and on receiving the return ball he curled a superb shot into the corner. If I’d had a choice of any seat in the ground, I couldn’t have chosen one better to see it, from the minute it left his boot we could see exactly where it was going.
Fulham tried to wrestle back the initiative but despite having a lot of possession, they struggled to create anything and we were becoming more and more comfortable. Kompany made his second change twenty minutes into the half with Rodriguez coming on for the completely shattered Foster. He was on no time at all when he was joining in the celebrations following our second goal.
With each game, Berge is looking an even better signing and he has more to his armoury than football we soon learned as the Burnley fans began to sing: “You better watch out, you better not cry. Better not pout, I’m telling you why. Sander Berge is coming to town.”
The Burnley fans were now in Christmas party mood but there was still a game to be won and it was definitely not over with a quarter of the game still to be played. We had some defending to do and given it was now at the far end, it wasn’t always easy to see just how comfortable we were.
What I did see was Berge come close to a second with a shot that went over the bar and I did spot Trafford making one block before they blazed the rebound almost all the way into Hammersmith.
Everyone has had their say on the referee. What I will say is that I hardly noticed her, and that’s as good as it can ever get for a referee and says a lot about her performance. Meanwhile, Rob Jones was making a big balls of it again at Nottingham Forest.
I’ve always thought that away wins are the best, there’s something special being in an away end watching your team pick up the three points and then celebrating with the players. That’s exactly how it was yesterday.
There was a slight cock up in our party, and there were only four of us, with half of that total falling behind and leaving the other two waiting for some time for them at the end of the tube journey, but we were soon at Burnham Beeches, our chosen destination, for some good food and drink to round off the day.
I was so down last week after the Everton defeat and it will take more than one win at Fulham before I can have much confidence of getting out of this relegation mess, but a win is a win, it was a great day out and now we can just hope there will be more and more of them to come.
Eight points away from home from the first nine games isn’t bad at all provided the home record is decent. It isn’t and that’s where we need to start improving.
But we can sit down for Christmas dinner tomorrow knowing our last game was a terrific 2-0 win away from home.
The teams were;
Fulham: Bernd Leno, Timothy Castagne, Tosin Adarabioyo, Calvin Bassey, Antonee Robinson (Fodé Ballo-Touré 82), João Palhinha (Harrison Reed 82), Tom Cairney, Harry Wilson, Andreas Pereira (Bobby De Cordova-Reid 65), Alex Iwobi, Rodrigo Muniz (Carlos Vinícius 64). Subs not used: Marek Rodák, Kenny Tette, Saša Lukić, Issa Diop, Luke Harris.
Yellow Cards: Calvin Bassey, João Palhinha.
Burnley: James Trafford, Vitinho, Dara O’Shea, Jordan Beyer, Charlie Taylor, Jacob Bruun Larsen (Mike Trésor ht, Hannes Delcroix 89), Josh Brownhill, Sander Berge, Wilson Odobert (Connor Roberts 80), Zeki Amdouni (Nathan Redmond 80), Lyle Foster (Jay Rodriguez 65). Subs not used: Arijanet Muric, Josh Cullen, Anass Zaroury, Michael Obafemi.
Yellow Card: Jordan Beyer.
Referee: Rebecca Welch (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 23,598 (including 1,585 Clarets).
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