A routine win from an average display characterised by competency and the plain ordinary. Those long boring passages with nothing much going on were a welcome relief from the shredded emotions of the previous week. The lads knew we needed a break – they’re just so considerate, bless ‘em.
After the Hull game, Phil Brown said he had rung a few manager mates to find out how to cope with us. Mick McCarthy and others obliged, but the wonderful wily Roy Hodgson needed no help in setting up his team. They tried to funnel us into the packed midfield, where many of our attacks foundered. Bentley was probably the most surprised man in the ground where he heard he was playing but we needed width and that was his role. Desperate to impress, he was repeatedly drawn infield to the ball like a moth to a flame, indicating his lack of a big brain. However, we had so much of the ball that he was able to produce something out wide and did well enough.
Modric was the pick of our team. He could have got on the ball more, because when he did he upped the tempo and made things happen. Not only is he dangerous, he galvanises others into action. This blog’s mantra is pass and move. I’m always banging on about it but today I will give you some respite. Suffice to say that when we played in short bursts like this, as after the second goal, we looked so much more dangerous than when we hammered in the crosses but seldom provided enough support for the man on the ball.
And boy did those crosses and long balls come sailing in. Crouch causes anxiety in defenders and usually gets a touch but the real question is about what he does with these opportunities. Time and again in the last few weeks he has failed to make very much of them. Headers are misdirected past the woodwork or by team-mates in support and he’s easily nudged off the ball, just enough to affect his aim, because of his lack of body strength. He took his goal well, laid on a plate by Luka’s admirable persistence, but he is so frustrating and his presence means we look for him rather than try to pass our way forward. He’s a key option but not the only option. Defoe was left with a cricked neck as the ball flew over and past him for the whole game.
Bale continues to impress. We’ve not really seen him tested defensively since he came back into the team but already his accelerating forward runs are reminiscent of Cole (may I wash my mouth out) and Evra. Above all, he’s taking control of situations and seldom hesitates. When he makes a mistake, he’s quickly back into position and does not lose concentration. He will make mistakes but we must tolerate that, because he’s one of the best prospects I have seen for a long time. A top quality player in the making.
Hud did Ok. Again he does better when given a fraction more space but he made the most of what he was given, looking for the ball and passing well. At times his control was beautiful, and I mean an utterly beautiful skill, so much so that he stopped to admire his own genius and was therefore tackled. Oh well. And a word of praise for Gomes, who really has not put a foot wrong for several matches and his presence exudes confidence at the back. He’s a terrific player.
Fulham were missing several key men, which disrupted their formidable powers of organisation, and they don’t travel well, so their lack of threat was predictable and frankly welcome. Murphy impressed, as always. Shrewd and spiky, he releases the ball early into channels as well as picking everything up from their back four, but he had little to work with. Frustrated as much by his team-mates’ reluctance to pass to him as the redoubtable efforts of Dawson and King, Zamora forsook the more traditional methods of graft and talent and turned to sustained whinging in order to make the breakthrough. Surely the offside decisions against him were mistaken as he could never in this match have been considered active.
Overall, we were never seriously challenged and picked up the win without too much of a problem. Dull at times, and for once I’m glad.