28 November 2015

Review: Fulham 1 - 1 Preston North End

It's been a long time since I've written one of these reviews, because I haven't felt the need to rant so heavily at a football match for so long.

I want to start by moaning, firstly, about Peter Grant's team selection(s). I can only presume that Dan Burn was injured, as for him to not even get onto the substitutes' bench was an incredible decision, particularly when we had the absolutely appalling Kay Voser warming the bench. Ditto Alex Kacaniklic, but there's no excuse for starting Sean Kavanagh over Ben Pringle. The fact that when we finally kicked off and Scott Parker had replaced Sakari Mattila, Parker was easily - easily - our best player. He gave a shit and was the only bright spot in the first half.

Joe Lewis in goal was a foregone conclusion, but after today, if I were Marek Rodak, I would be making a case for my debut. Not only was Lewis partially at fault for the goal (you really shouldn't be beaten on your near post, Joe), but he seemed to deliberately fall out with his centre-backs, which explains why there weren't very many passes back to him today. Tim Ream, Richard Stearman, and Parker all said at one point to keep it down and on the floor. Lewis told them to sod off and pushed them much higher up the pitch - only for it to go straight to an opposing player. His distribution generally was dreadful, he forgave the opportunity for a counter-attack so many times, and sitting in H5, it genuinely felt as though the fans were about to invade the pitch and carry him all the way back to Cardiff. I even shouted "we want Rodak" at one point - and to my amazement, the rest of the stand started to join in...

Fredericks was clearly unfit today. His famous pace was nowhere to be seen, and he didn't have a great game. He switched off so many times, and his crosses up the other end were far too deep. Stearman played one of his better games for us, but Tim Ream had yet another shocker, and I don't think he deserves to be in the starting XI. He was awful yet again, and I certainly would have had Burn over him. But I do give credit where its due - and today that has to go to (and I'd never thought I would be saying this) Shaun Hutchinson. In the second half, when he came on, we played a couple of formations. One of them was 3-5-2, then we moved to a 4-4-2, and he really worked well as a centre back pairing with Richard Stearman. Husband, I felt had an indifferent game, but is still better than Garbutt.

I was a bit incensed when Scott Parker was taken off, because he was, as I said earlier, easily the best player for us today. He was the equivalent of Muamer Tankovic in that Sheffield United game - the one bright spot. By the second half, he did look tired, but I would love to see more of him and O'Hara together, particularly when Grant dropped the diamond and we played 4-4-2 in the first half. Tom Cairney was... OK. There's not much that can be said. He had a couple of good long-range efforts, but most of the time (and whether this is a Symonsian legacy or Grant's instructions is debatable) he was looked to play McCormack or Dembele in, and I was begging for all the midfield to take shots.

Speaking of which, bloody Sean Kavanagh was woeful, and never deserves to play for us ever again. The first three passes he made went straight to the opposition, and it never improved from there. When he scored that goal against Norwich last season, he took it first time from 30-odd yards. Today, in a similar position, two or three times, instead of shooting, he chose to play it out wide to Husband, who would then put in a dire cross or lay it back to the non-shooting Kavanagh. Being substituted at half time was relief rather than anything else. If he ever plays for us again, it will be too soon. 

McCormack did that thing again when he chose to come deep to get the ball. This is a real bugbear of mine, and I hope someone beats some sense into him. Having said that, his free kick was superb, but I didn't really celebrate it, oddly, because I knew we didn't deserve it. Dembele had a quiet afternoon, really, and Smith was invisible.

Now, something else I can directly blame Grant for is the ridiculous clearances. He's clearly forgotten to click "clear ball to flanks" on Football Manager. Every single player never just stuck it in Row Z if they were unsure - they played it straight into the middle, and to the Preston centre back on the halfway line. Either that or they played square passes on the edge of our own box (Kavanagh) and promptly gave the ball away.

Where was the passion?? Where was the intensity today?? No one put the tackles in. No one actually gave a shit. No one actually cared. One of their midfielders ran from the inside left to the inside right - and no one closed him down, no one tackled him... it was a defensive horror show.

It was suggested tonight by a Fulham fan on Twitter that Rigg shouldn't be being blamed as he was, but he should have been - and Khan too. STOP TRYING TO APPOINT A MANAGER ON THE CHEAP. You cannot get a cheap, experienced manager. You just can't. I'd be cheap (I know I was rejected, but I hope my application is still with you, sir...), but I'd be inexperienced. Pearson, on the other hand, is experienced, but expensive. Khan and Rigg need to pull their fingers out and realise that you can't have it both ways. SORT. IT. OUT. Cough up, Khan. At least pretend you actually care. And I've managed to get through this whole paragraph without swearing, which is impressive on my part.

The referee, however, was an absolute disgrace, but I do not, for one minute, want to hide behind his dreadful decisions, because we deserved to lose, and lose badly. If we play like that next weekend I might be saying the following in my review:

"Aaaaaand it's a good start this morning from Nottingham Forest, although Fulham will be pleased to get the early wicket. 11 - 1."

It was the worst overall performance I have EVER seen at Craven Cottage. It makes the Sheffield United game look good.

But back to the referee, who denied us a clear penalty and a half-clear penalty. The Fredericks trip was easily a penalty - a stonewall one. Husband has less of a claim, but considering what he was giving Preston, he deserved it too. The next appeal from Fredericks was a free kick one. Whilst Fredericks was looking to go down, there was a shocking challenge and it really should have been a free kick. What annoyed me more was that Scott Parker was penalised five seconds later for the smallest of touches with no actual outcome as a result!

Marks out of 10 (listed by starting formation):

GK 12 J Lewis - 3
RB 7 R Fredericks - 5
RCB 5 R Stearman - 6
LCB 13 T Ream - 2
LB 40 J Husband - 4
CDM 8 S Parker - 8
RCM 23 J O'Hara - 7
LCM 32 S Kavanagh - 1
CAM 10 T Cairney - 7
RS 44 R McCormack - 6
LS 25 M Dembele - 5

4 S Hutchinson - 6
9 M Smith - 5
18 B Pringle - 4

And finally, get will soon, Stevie May. It was a fair tackle from Stearman - but no one ever wants to see players stretchered off injured.

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