Fulham v Wolves
A car wreck outside of Molineux Stadium pushed the starting time of the Fulham – Wolves match back fifteen minutes.
Then, thirteen minutes after the match began, there was another car wreck. This time it took place inside the stadium, when Fulham suddenly found themselves down 2-0.
To be honest, just like the team, I had a bad spell right after the first whistle. Since our relegation, about the only way to follow the club live here in the US is via Gentleman Jim and Twitter. Three minutes into it something happened to Match Centre and I lost the audio feed. By the time I got it back we were already down 1-0, and that familiar sense of dismay began settling in my gut, like I’d eaten wet cement. Just seven minutes later, Zyro (who I’d never heard of before this, by the way) bagged his second, and that wet cement hardened in my stomach into a cold chunk of dread.
To our credit, the two goals we scored were great – but with our indefensible defense, scoring only two goals per match isn’t going to cut it. We can’t pull a "Reading" each game, as exciting as that would be.
When I watched the replay, all three goals against us looked pretty soft. For the first one, Richards was too slow and gave his man way too much space. The second one bothered me because Zyro appeared to be offside, and Lonergan got nutmegged (I’m sure he can’t be happy with that). The third was another worldie – and I’ve got to tell you, I’m sick and tired of worldies. People toss the word "unlucky" around in this game, and at the risk of sounding like a corny country music song, if it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.
To our credit, we are a goal-scoring machine. Sadly, we’re also a goal-conceding machine. All this time I’ve been blaming the defense, but the more I think about it, that may not be completely fair or justified. Stearman was a solid defender for Wolves last year. Ream was a favorite for Bolton two years in a row. Richards is a Welsh International. Burn…well, Burn’s value to fans is pretty fluid, but without a doubt he’s a Fulham man through and through. I respect that, and he’s had some good games lately.
And yet, with these solid, respectable players, our defense is still as full of holes as a gas station condom.
So what’s the story here? Do we take good defenders and turn them into mediocre ones? Perhaps they’re posers who aren’t found out until we pick them up? Or do they suffer sudden football amnesia and forget how to defend set plays and mark the posts? What happens when these players set foot on the Craven Cottage pitch? No, really – I’m asking the question. What happens? Is there some Fulhamish Curse I’m unaware of?
Looking back, our fortunes, such as they’ve been this season, changed dramatically when we lost Ryan Tunnicliffe. When he was in the squad and paired with O’Hara, we were much more likely to hold our own. I’ve been checking out some tweets and blogs from people who know a lot more about this than I do, and they’re saying the same thing: it’s not only our defense, it’s our midfield. We need someone tough and strong in front of the defense to slow down attacks, to steady the troops. A name I’ve seen tossed out is someone like Dickson Etuhu. And even though we lost, we looked pretty solid when Sakari Mattila played in that holding, defensive position– until their worldie took us out, of course. Get better soon, Ryan – we need you.
In the meantime, we’ve got to give Slaviša Jokanović some time to feel out the best players, the best formations, and how he can cobble together a squad able to get us through the season. Once that’s done and the transfer embargo is over, I suspect we’ll have new players, improved tactics, and a renewed sense of optimism. In Slav We Trust…
Until then, you’d better buckle up, because we're probably not done with this car wreck of a season just yet.