Fulham Vs Bolton

Craven Cottage SW6

Date: 27/11/2005   —   Free   —   Other

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I had been looking forward to this game for a long time. A couple of months ago I was given the inside track on a competition to win 2 tickets to see Fulham play Bolton which I then went and won! What’s more it was for full corporate hospitality, lunch in the lounge and seats for the game in the directors box.

The last football match I attended was in 1988 when I watched Wimbledon defeat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley along with another 93,000 people. It was always going to be a little tricky to live up to that and after Wimbledon’s demise I wondered if I’d ever go to a game again. Fittingly the man who lifted the FA Cup that day was the Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant who is now a Fulham coach and was evident on the touchline for much of the match.

I was actually born in SW6 (on the Fulham/Chelsea border) so this was something of a homecoming, I went to school just across the river from Craven Cottage and frequently rowed past the ground. But supporting Fulham was something I came to later in life, tho’ it seems I made the right choice.

After my usual forgetting something incident I was forced to drive a little quicker to the ground but made it in good time, parked in the director’s parking area in a local school near the ground and got in the minibus which drove us to the ground along with some of the other guests and old pros. All locals tho’, you could tell by the accents, it’s an accent I haven’t heard in a long time.

I was expecting a cold buffet lunch, cucumber sandwiches and all that, and fairly bog standard hospitality but I was very pleasantly surprised, we received a glass of champagne on arrival and lunch was Lancashire Hot Pot with potato gratin and carrot and swede mash, it was bloody top, washed down with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and followed by bread pudding.

At 2pm we went out to watch the game, perfect position just by the half way line at a good height to see but near enough to be close to the game. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the atmosphere. The only problem was the weather which was bitter and because the ground is right next to the river you get a chill breeze.

We were all buoyed by a Brian McBride goal in the 4th minute, perfect start, gets the crowd going and everybody’s happy, except the away fans but we don’t really care about them! Fulham were in fluid mood and the game was exciting and all one way traffic. It wasn’t a surprise when McBride doubled the lead and his tally on 19 minutes. A second goal is always a relaxer, you feel you have a buffer and with this and Fulham playing well the crowd were in good voice and everything seemed right with the world, at least for most of the near 20,000 crowd.

With Bolton you always expect a pretty physical game and that proved to be the case, it was at times very scrappy in midfield but by and large they didn’t cause us any problems in the first half and their only attacking opportunities came from dubious free kicks. We could have had more goals and played well enough to deserve them but none were coming and we went in 2-up at half-time.

Whilst many went to find burgers and hot dogs at half time, we got to go back into the warm at the lounge and were served with tea and coffee. The second half was a rather different game, Bolton played aerial and we were just seemingly content to break up their attacks, there was little panache to much of the half and that seemed to suit them far more than us. There were a lot of stoppages and Bolton players seemed to go over very easily whilst Fulham players scrapped for balls, this could be my subjective view from the halfway line!

Our keeper whilst a good shot stopper didn’t seem to have a decent strategy for goal kicks, constantly hoofing up to Brian McBride and making it all seem predictable. Fulham do not have the height up front to merit such a strategy and we lost the chance for a lot of attacks this way.
You could kind of see a goal coming, although on the few occasions we attacked we looked far more dangerous than Bolton did. But it just felt like one of those game where we would concede. The fact that it was an own goal was irritating, that it came in the 90th minute at least made only for 4 agonising minutes before we were put out of our misery.

All in all I enjoyed the game, I have been long used to defending my side for playing scrappy but effective football and grinding out the results against sides that were far better on paper. In Fulham there is more flair when they use it and they can be genuinely skilful and entertaining to watch. But the infuriating aspect of letting leads slip and a shaky defence is no stranger to my football memories and I do feel that this is a club where I can feel at home.

Mark Crossley – 6 – Solid enough in shot-stopping but kicks were often wayward and punts downfield were usually a hiding to nothing.
Moritz Volz – 7 – Pressed forward and looked like a good old-fashioned wing-back, possible question marks about his ability to track back in defence though.
Carlos Bocanegra – 7 – Didn’t have an awful lot to do but looked reliable and secure.
Alain Goma – 6 – At times looked a little slow but due to a lack of Bolton attack not troubled much.
Liam Rosenior – 6 – Quiet and never put under much pressure.
Papa Bouba Diop – 7 – No booming long shots but physically strong and towering in the air.
Tomasz Radzinski – 7 – Set up the first goal and always tried hard, had a very quiet seond half
Steed Malbranque – 9 -Returning to proper form this season Steed ran everything at the midfield, tries for every ball, dogged, skillful, Fulham’s talisman and best player on the pitch.
Luis Boa Morte – 6 – The captain looked a little flat, did nothing wrong but not his usual powerful self, subbed due to injury after an hour
Collins John – 7 – Tried hard, lots of pace made a lot of runs and space that sadly Crossley didn’t pick up.
Brian McBride – 9 – Scored both goals and caused the Bolton defence all sorts of problems, linked up with Collins John and Steed Malbranque well.
Sylvain Legwinski – 5 – Came on for Boa Morte, looked slow and indecisive, would be harsh to blame him too much for the own goal but typified his day really.
Heider Helgusson – 6 – Only had about 5 minutes and I’m not sure he touched the ball.