Peter Crouch - Header

Nothing in the walk to White Hart Lane, the noise of the crowd round the ground nor the atmosphere inside suggested we were expecting anything special tonight, and we didn’t get anything. Well that’s not quite true. There was the rare sight of David Bentley in a Spurs shirt plus another impressive display of attacking full back play from an increasingly confident and influential Gareth Bale. Once Assou-Ekotto gets fit he’s going to struggle to get back into the team.

This was the sort of routine win we hoped for in the games against Stoke, Wolves, Hull and Leeds. Fulham never posed a serious threat and for once the opposition goalie was more like Jeff than Gordon Banks. As well as Bentley, Harry brought back in Ledley and Huddlestone with Bassong, Jenas and Kranjcar missing out. The Croat wasn’t even on the bench suggesting he’d got a knock of some sort.

The Fulham support was pathetic taking up just the top tier of the corner of the Park Lane as they did. Just a little bit of a contrast to last Saturday. Surprisingly there were empty seats in the East and West stands, Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy coming back to the Lane on a cold Tuesday night clearly doesn’t draw in the punters.

Unusually we started the game kicking towards the Paxton End. Luka Modric and Bale provided our best attacking moments as the first half unfolded. Crouch was causing trouble to Hangeland and new Man United signing Smalling but Defoe was struggling to find space. After 27 minutes Bentley combined with Corluka and curled in a cross that Schwarzer came for but, under a challenge from Crouch, in the end only flapped at. Fulham midfielder Riise went to shield the ball out over the goal line but instead found that Modric had somehow hooked his foot around him and brought the ball back into play. Crouch finished adroitly from Luka’s cut back. Schwarzer has a history of giving us goals at WHL, particularly for Middlesbrough. There are some traditions it’s good to see are being kept alive.

The nearest we came to increasing our lead was when Modric bamboozled Aaron Hughes inside the box but curled his shot just over. We’d been the better team but it was close. The midfield (Modric excepted) gave the ball away casually on countless occasions. Dawson was hoofing to Crouch (or Defoe, he didn’t seem to care who) constantly and even Gomes joined in by piling kicks straight into touch. When we did manage to string passes together we were forcing them back easily so it was frustrating that we’d not taken total control.

Fulham started the second half brightly, keeping the ball well. Duff moved up alongside Zamora with Gera dropping deeper. It didn’t last long though as Huddlestone in particular picked his game up from the first half and started moving the ball round quicker and more accurately. After an hour Bale powered between two defenders and was tripped outside the box. Bentley fired in a shot that Schwarzer had covered until the unfortunate Riise again intervened. A casual flick of the ginger Norwegian’s head and the ball sailed past an already committed keeper and in. Thanks mate.

That was effectively it. We made loads of space and kept the ball well but made few chances. As in the first half Modric was our main creative threat; he seemed to stick out on the wing far more than he normally does. Certainly Bale seems to enjoy playing with him. Dawson missing a header from a Bentley free kick was the closest we came to making it three leaving Palacios’s non-stop running, hassling and tackling as the main thing to admire.

Three points without any drama is what we wanted and that’s what we got. Leeds lost 3-0 at Swindon, the Robins must have some team!

By MF