Behind Enemy Lines: shaky Fulham sink shaky Forest

Jake: 'back to Wembley?'
Jake: ‘back to Wembley?’

Rob Hutchison, our man of single word player assessments took a trip to the north bank of the Thames last night to take in a not so sneak preview of our F.A. Cup opponents. Here’s what he saw – little to fear for a Premier League side he thinks but as we all know too well, Sunderland is no ordinary Premier League side.

When my mate said he had a spare season ticket at Craven Cottage for their league game against Nottingham Forest last night, it struck me as the perfect opportunity to check out the opposition for our forthcoming Cup game on Saturday. So here in a couple of hundred words is a quick resume of what we can expect . . . .

Fulham lined up 4-4-2, with a Mag loving centre back by the name of Hutchinson holding the back line together, Scotty Parker and Ryan Tunnecliffe taking charge of the midfield and Rodallega and £10m danger man Ross McCormack as a front two. Fulham were up to the pace of the game far quicker than Forest, winning all the second balls and carving out dangerous opportunities at will while Forest sat back, seemingly still on the team coach. By the 31st minute they were 3-0 down, courtesy of a stunning Ross MacCormack hat-trick – the first a clean left footed strike from 25 yards. The second was a similar but right footed strike into the left hand corner from 20 yards and his third another right footed effort from a similar distance albeit with a big deflection. The game was over – home and hosed. Bring on Sunderland.

Rob:
Rob:

But it’s never that easy, is it? Although Forest were abject and I mean abject (think Sunderland but double it) schoolboy errors at the back by the home side helped to carve out a couple of opportunities for Forest and they pulled one back on the stroke of half time with a smart Henri Lansbury free kick. Pearce (black suit, brown shoes never a good combination) gambled and moved to 3-5-2 for the second half. The extra man in midfield caught Fulham cold, and they appeared completely unable to keep possession and re-create the silky smooth passing game wich had epitomised the first 45 minutes. Yet more defensive frailties were exploited and Forest deservedly scored a second from another Lansbury effort, again from outside the box. Fulham brought on Bryan Ruiz for Parker, and Cauley Woodrow for the ineffective Rodallega but the red tide kept swarming forward and the home team continued to look very shaky under pressure at the back. Ultimately it wasn’t enough for Forest and Fulham held on to secure a generally deserved win on the night.

So what do we have to deal with on Saturday? Well in a nutshell stop McCormack and you stop Fulham. He can go left or right, shoot at will with either foot from distance and while he doesn’t possess pace, he occasionally drops deep into the hole and can be very difficult to pick up. A midfield enforcer like Cattermole would you’d hope deal with any threats from Parker and Tunnecliffe. We need to come out of the traps and deny Fulham any time on the ball. Under pressure there’s and air of panic in their defence on occasions. They pass the ball neatly and patiently and are happy to build from the back, but there’s also limited pace in their side, so you’d hope Brown and O’Shea (or any of our centre back pairings) could deal with everything in front of them, without the fear of runners exploiting any gaps. No real threat to speak of from the wingers or wing backs, should also give Johnno & Giaccherini (if playing) the chances to weave some magic. It’s made for Van Arnholt and Defoe for me. Play the ball to them in the right areas and hopefully we’ll be OK, but of course it’s never easy with Sunderland.

So I guess to sum up – if Fulham play like they did in the first 45 minutes last night they should be play off certainties. If Forest do the same, Stuart Pearce will be next in line down the job centre.

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Brazil 2014: the rights and wrongs of Giaccherini’s omission from Italy squad

This is what Jake urged ... and he was right, with crucial help towards the end of the season from Giaccherini
This is what Jake urged … and he was right, with crucial help towards the end of the season from Giaccherini

This is one of those occasional guest posts from outsiders, in this case resulting from a collaboration with Superserp.com. It started out as a “will Giaccherini make the squad?” piece but that idea was scuppered by the announcement from Italy that made clear he had not made it. But was Cesare Prandelli right to overlook him – and, for that matter, was Poyet right to make so little use of him? …

Read moreBrazil 2014: the rights and wrongs of Giaccherini’s omission from Italy squad

Sixers sevens: Arsenal 4 Sunderland 1 – nothing positive to report

Pete Sixsmith: seven words, no more, no less.
Pete Sixsmith: seven words, no more, no less.

John McCormick writes: M Salut went to the game but I didn’t see him in the crowd. I did see Peter Sixsmith, however, standing next to Sobs. Pete doesn’t like London games and I wondered if he’d be there, given next week.

Read moreSixers sevens: Arsenal 4 Sunderland 1 – nothing positive to report

Sixer’s Peterborough Soapbox: relief all round as Cats purr their way to victory

SoapboxPOSH

The atmosphere around the Stadium of Light last night was not that of a club in crisis writes Malcolm Dawson. Mind you when I arrived outside the ground an hour before kick off it was obviously typical of a League Cup fixture – quieter than Bishop Auckland on a Friday night when the bouncers outside the pubs outnumber the punters within. Surprisingly perhaps there was little talk of Di Canio’s departure, player power or possible incoming coaches. It seemed to me that those inside the ground were hoping that a decent performance would erase the memories of the dismal start to the season. There was a decent turn out too of Posh supporters on a mizzly September evening – more than Fulham brought. Pete Sixsmith was there too.

NEWsoapbox(Without Score)

A WEIGHT OFF THE SHOULDERS

It was a cup tie and it was against a team who were two divisions below us, but there was a palpable sense of relief at the SoL last night as a predominantly British team shrugged off Peterborough United to make it into the last 16 of the Football League Cup.

Relief at the fact that the owner had taken action to arrest a situation which was looking critical if not terminal even after five games; relief at the fact that we have not stampeded into a quick appointment and are happy to look at several candidates while leaving the first team in the very English hands of Kevin Ball.

Nobody that I spoke to was anything other than pleased that the mercurial Italian had left. The players were welcomed with warm applause, particularly O’Shea and Larsson, who are reputedly the ones who led the delegation to Margaret Byrne. They looked like men who had had a huge weight taken off their shoulders.

It would be wrong to describe the 90 minutes that followed as a sparkling performance. Some of the team were rusty, hardly having played this season. Others were desperate to impress and maybe tried too much. But they won, are in the next round and looked like a better team than past results have indicated.

Cattermole had an immediate impact, sitting deep and winning the ball before moving it forward. At times, he reminds me of a parks player, constantly chasing the ball and then giving it away. But he played one exquisite through ball to Giaccherini in the 32nd minute, which saw the excellent Italian put us ahead.
Ball played him behind Altidore, in the role in which we always hoped Sessegnon would excel. He looked a very good player last night, quick, sharp and with the ability to create his own space. This one could work and his celebrations when he scored indicated that he had played a considerable part in ensuring that Di Canio was queuing at the Alitalia desk on Monday morning.

Another who looked quietly impressive was Ki, who does simple things well and also has the ability to create his own space. However, he let himself down with a nasty challenge on Lee Tomlin, raking his foot down Tomlin’s Achilles and putting the Posh’s most influential player out of the game after 10 minutes. Altidore worked hard, as always, and was unlucky with a thumping shot that hit the post in the first half and Johnson was always a good outlet on the left. He put in a wonderful centre for Roberge to head home to wrap the game up, having earlier curled one just round the post.

So, no embarrassment to a team below us in the pyramid and a feeling that players and crowd were united in the face of adversary. We go into Sunday’s game against Liverpool with a win under our belts and that sense of relief that a bully has been beaten and that there is the potential of salvaging the season and getting some points on the board.
Kevin Ball has said that he wants the job. He has done well with the Under 21’s – but so did Ricky Sbragia. Whoever takes over has to be vetted carefully and has to have either the credentials or the potential to make quick progress. Poyet seems to be in a strong position and could be an interesting appointment. I suspect that Tony Pulis or Alex McLeish will not be popular with fans, but they are honest and reliable men. I like the cut of Eddie Howe’s jib and he has done well at Bournemouth and I gather he was on the Everton short list in the summer.

Whoever it is has a decent bunch of players to work with, and more importantly, a group of players who have shown that they do care about the club and their own professional reputations. Talk of player power is nonsense – as Martin Smith said on Total Sport, if they didn’t care about the club they would just say they were injured and pick up their salaries as Angeleri and a few others have done over the years.

We await the appointment with interest – and hope that Bally can give his chances a real boost on Sunday.


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