An all round team effort from Spurs was enough to hand out a first league defeat of the season to a Fulham side who as usual spent a lot of the ninety minutes punching above their apparent collective weight. Fulhamâ€™ s name on the fixture list is always a bit of a surprise to me, â€œ How can they have lasted so long in this division?â€ . â€˜ Diddyâ€™ David Hamilton, a breakdancing badger (why?), Jonathan Greening, supporters who appear to have spurned an afternoon of rugger or rowing in favour of a trip to the Cottage and have brought along little Ludo, Noah and Geraint, offspring who are unlikely to be sporting â€˜ Fulham â€˜ Til I Dieâ€™ tattoos into manhood. Still, they do have beer sellers wandering around wearing spaceman backpacks dispensing the amber nectar. Let the ale come to you rather than vice versa.
There were good and outstanding performances throughout our team. Iâ€™ d single out Assou-Ekotto, Huddlestone and Gallas but Bale had a hand in both goals and Van der Vaartâ€™ s piece of skill for the first makes a case for a special mention. (Hats off to the fan with â€˜ Van der Vaaaaaaartâ€™ over the back of his shirt by the way.).
Assou-Ekotto showed confidence, composure and skill from first to last; Gallas displayed signs of proper leadership once King was groined out of the action and Huddlestone was similarly influential in the middle, especially in the second half when Lennon came on to provide more width. The ball from big Tom that set Bale away to earn the corner that ultimately led to our second goal (deep breath), was beautifully judged with the sort of curl and backspin that wouldâ€™ ve given Ronnie Oâ€™ Sullivan pause for thought. At West Ham Thudd looked laboured and appeared to telegraph every long looping pass, here though he was for the most part quick, accurate and decisive.
Lots of early possession for us had led to just one opportunity, a shot from Pav that bounced just wide. Fulham were let back into the game as we struggled to get a foot in in midfield too often. Eventually Dempsey was allowed to hang on to the ball too long and his low cross on the turn was tapped in by an unmarked Kamara. The home fans made a sustained noise only twice during the afternoon and both times they were cut short before getting into full voice. On this occasion, from the restart Bale was given room on the left to find Van der Vaart in the box. A superb chip on the spin came off the crossbar and Pav was first to the rebound allowing the Hammersmith End to forget this singing nonsense and get back to their lattes, and Mark Hughes to continue his exasperated arm waving impression of a store manager looking for someone to clear up a spillage in aisle 13 before head office come calling.
Playing Pav on his own up front is a gamble mainly for two reasons. Heâ€™ s too much of a confidence player and he hasnâ€™ t got the tools for the job. Fighting for and holding possession is labourerâ€™ s work; facing goal Pav is an artisan in the penalty area and a hopeful fantasist outside it. With his back to goal trying to shield or knock down a Hutton punt forward ? No chance. Fulhamâ€™ s Dembele made himself available to his midfield and defence for â€˜ out-ballsâ€™ in a way that Pav was never going to manage. Give him a sniff of a chance though and heâ€™ s different player.
Sandroâ€™ s full debut was cut short at half time due to a combination of his receiving a yellow card trying to remove Simon Davies from his ankles and Harry needing to change things around. The alteration did the trick and we were on top throughout the second half. The goal we scored may have been tinged with doubt (and the period between Mike Dean disallowing Huddlestoneâ€™s thunderbolt and then reinstating it was the second occasion when the volume from the home crowd was raised above a whisper) but it was one of many chances we created whereas Gomes was called upon only to make a couple of straightforward saves. Lennon was much more like his old self and was a menace down the right. Modric looked more at home in the middle than wide and Van der Vaartâ€™ s uncanny knack of appearing in the right place at the right time nearly led to profit. Bassong was athletic and solid in place of Ledley who hadnâ€™ t looked his normal self even before his injury.
Harry is still clearly struggling to find the right combination to fit everyone in who needs to be fitted in. We shouldnâ€™ t have to wait until half time to have a balance about the side. His philosophy of dealing with every problem with a positive response is currently bearing fruit though. The quality of players in the team at the moment is something he and we should be proud of. Some of the combination play between Modric, VdV, BAE, Lennon, Bale & Hudd was of the highest order in the second half, not least when we ran the four minutes stoppage time down. How often have we seen that go wrong in the past? The performance wasnâ€™ t without its faults but all in all it was an excellent one and another good come from behind win.
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