Southampton add to weary Jol's worries: Fulham 1-1 Southampton

Clive Rose

Murmurs of discontent rumble around the Cottage as a late Southampton goal deny Fulham three points.

Fulham were yet again pegged back by a resilient Southampton side after Rickie Lambert scored a last minute penalty for the south coast club.

Dimitar Berbatov had initially put Fulham ahead but, even with a meagre one goal cushion, the Whites sat back and invited pressure. It would, inevitably, be Martin Jol's undoing.

Why inevitably? Because he can't seem to do anything right at the moment. One win in eleven. A tepid front line. An horrifically porous defence. It's the formula for relegation.

But we can't throw this all at the door of Jol. He makes the calls, of course, but he doesn't play the football. John Arne Riise, Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis, amongst others, do that, and they are making a hash of it.

Riise was flat-footed, slow and, seemingly, one step behind the play in front of him. No good for a full back. Sidwell has, of late, been a shadow of his former, resolute self and Karagounis isn't even that. At thirty-five, he seems to have lost everything that made him so sought after just under a decade ago.

But then it comes full circle. Karagounis is a Jol addition - despite the Dutchman's pledge to reduce the average age of the squad. That certainly hasn't happened.

So he undoubtedly has questions to answer, though whether they will come from Mohammed Al Fayed is another matter. It's unlikely, as he is one of few chairmen to strive for continuity, which you must admire.

But it's too soon to think of the sack yet. A few more bad results, though, and the murmurs will be heard in more than just the corners of Craven Cottage.

It had started well in South West London, though. Berbatov scored within eight minutes, firing past Saints' Kelvin Davies after he could only turn Sascha Riether's cross into the Bulgarian's path.

His celebration revealed a t-shirt reading "keep calm and pass me the ball". The humour was lost on me but the arrogance wasn't.

He wasn't the only one making strange decisions, though, with Jol's surprise inclusion of Phillipe Senderos. Aaron Hughes was dropped to the bench, perhaps with one eye on Saturday's tie with Swansea, and perhaps with another on Rickie Lamber's physical threat. Not that it worked.

Soon after, it could have been two but such fortune hasn't shined on Fulham in a while. Somehow, Berbatov conspired to hit a header wide from a matter of six yards.

Southampton then worked their way back into the game, slowly but surely. Jack Cork fired at Mark Schwarzer from a distance and a goalmouth scramble was thankfully settled in the favour of the home defence. Riise had gambled on a loose ball going out of play, but the tenacity of Cork meant Brede Hanegeland and Berbatov had to throw themselves at the ball to deny the away side a first half riposte.

In the second period, Fulham merely settled into a rhythm of mediocrity. Jason Puncheon hit a stringing shot which dragged wide of the goal and Ashkan Dejagah, who'd had an awful game, glanced a shot across goal to no avail.

Home fans nervy and the Whites content to contain, Southampton grew in confidence. Before long, that superiority was reflected with a goal. Chris Baird handled in the box and despite a heroic attempt by Schwarzer to claw the ball wide, Lambert's spot kick nestled into the net.

To add salt to the wounds, it was only the away side who threatened from then. Thankfully, they didn't capitalise again but really, the damage had been done.

Just where will this rot end?

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