Is Fulham's awful away record a thing of the past?

Richard Heathcote

After last Sunday's victory over Tottenham, you can sense a tactical change in direction from Martin Jol that could spell a promising future.

Have Fulham finally turned that elusive corner?

That corner that has proved so troublesome and sharp in recent years that we have been nothing short of laughing stocks when away from Craven Cottage.

That corner that has proved so eerily difficult to navigate that bringing a point back to South West London, seemingly no matter where we have gone, was seen as a feat rather than a failure.

That unremitting corner that has formed a barrier between mid-table mediocrity and upper-echelon elegance.

For Fulham have been awful away from home for the best part of six years. Travails outside of SW6 have invariably brought bitter disappointment to a travelling faithful who have deserved far, far better.

But on Sunday, when we defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0, there was a strange perfection to our performance. A German efficiency if you will - and not just in the hands of Sascha Riether.

We had a plan - an airtight plan - to contain Spurs, a top-four team of the highest credentials and pedigree. We coped with their overwhelming pace with unnerving ease, in spite of our ageing back line.

Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Naughton - they caused us no problems at all. Bale was quietened by a mixture of steadfast tactical enforcement and some good-old-fashioned grit and determination while Assou-Ekotto and Naughton could not use their blistering pace to any sort of useful effect.

And while our method of containment was working a treat, there was a small, yet still noticeable, sense of adventure to the way we set up.

We weren't afraid to push Tottenham, safe in the knowledge that their fatigued eleven could falter at any moment. Bryan Ruiz was influential, Dimitar Berbatov characteristically sublime.

I was asked, once, if Berbatov was a luxury we couldn't afford away from the Cottage and my retort was plain and simple - he's a luxury we can't afford to leave out.

Yes, a part of our game is dedicated to carrying him, dedicated to his style, but when you're on the back foot, perhaps soaking up pressure, what is better than having a player that can turn a game on its head in one marvellous, swift moment? Nothing.

When we lauded Bobby Zamora for the role he used to play in our escapades outside of Fulham, were we lauding him because of his technical superiority? His crucial goals? Rarely. He was the hold up man; the guy who could offer our defence a chance to breathe and re-shape.

But with Berbatov, there is that inevitable element of threat and Martin Jol has finally found a way to exploit him for what he is worth. And it's a credit to us that we have taken this step in the right direction, beyond our former, 'a draw will do' style of play.

Because Fulham, as the away team, set up perfectly against Spurs last Sunday. The balance was pinpoint, the execution faultless.

And if Jol can continue to shape the team with such success, our away day blues may be beyond us.

But, as with everything Fulham, we can only hope it will be that simple.

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