Club Focus - Fulham - Two points dropped but plenty of positives
Clint Dempsey will likely never have to work harder for a goal. The pre-match build-up to Saturday’s fixture at Upton Park revolved around the American’s shot in the World Cup that forced the then England No 1, Robert Green, into a costly mistake. The target of the media focus was then the target on the field as, even before his 33rd-minute strike, Dempsey was subject to numerous late challenges and an elbow to the temple.
It has become a theme of the season for Fulham’s goal-scoring threats to be let known they are in a game by opposing defenders - with sometime over-exuberance leading to dangerous tackles - but since the injuries to Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele the Whites front-men have learned they will not be getting sympathy from referees, and have attempted to channel their energies into scoring goals. And on Saturday Demspey, fresh from the latest late tackle, fired home the opener after a fantastic passing move - the perfect response from the American, his celebration showing just how much he’d earned it.
Since Dembele suffered his injury, Dempsey has shown he is not afraid of commitment to the team’s cause, and as such must be putting himself firmly in Mark Hughes’ plans, even if at first he was left smouldering on the bench. The manager, in his pre-match comments, said the Belgian is expected back soon, and the prospect of Dempsey in his current form and Dembele terrorising defences is enough to encourage even the most pessimistic of Fulham fans in the absence of Zamora.
Unfortunately for the Whites, despite plenty more chances to beat Green on Saturday, it was one defensive error that stopped all three points heading back across London. The ever-reliable Brede Hangeland made a suicide pass early in the second half, letting West Ham equalise with an excellent Frederic Piquionne header, and after that there was no further way past the home side’s goalkeeper - despite Dempsey’s continued efforts. As with every away performance so far this season, there are plenty of positives to be taken, such as Fulham being the team most likely to win, and the amount of chances that were created. The down side with yet another away draw, and six overall from seven games, is that the four travelling matches so far have been four of the most winnable. The Whites are yet to face a fancied, top-half to European side, which is where the real test will lie. At least, however, Mark Hughes is expecting to win every game, which will only give his players confidence.
When a team is seemingly cursed away from home, such performances simply must be converted into wins, otherwise they will once again become reliant on home form. But with Dembele set to return after the international break to link up with the fiery Dempsey, there should soon be a higher number in the ‘games won’ column.