The paucity of travelling Fulham fans to the Etihad Stadium signalled that this was an away day that they certainly did not expect their team to get anything from. The Cottagers are notoriously poor travellers but bar at Anfield, it has been a long time since they have taken a victory at any of the other top clubs in the Premier League, let alone the champions Manchester City.
Indeed, after less than two minutes, Mark Schwarzer produced an error that is slowly becoming the norm for him this season and the rebound was swept home by David Silva to put City into the lead. Sadly, almost everyone at the ground, including the players and management, knew that was game over with a full 88 minutes to play.
Fulham did improve afterwards and came relatively close to threatening when Steve Sidwell’s scrappy header hit the post. But in truth City were always in third or fourth gear and at times looked like they could score at will while Fulham, for all their efforts, are a side struggling for form at the moment and never looked like they had the capability nor the belief that they could get back into it, despite having Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz on the pitch.
In a week where rumours have swirled that Martin Jol could be on his way out of Craven Cottage either before the end of the transfer window or at the end of the season, this was not the sort of performance to suggest otherwise. Fulham were lifeless, Berbatov was lifeless and even Jol on the bench looked rather lifeless.
While away from home this is hardly a rare occurrence for the Cottagers, supporters probably do not need to be reminded that their side has only won two of their last 16 games in the league, one each at Craven Cottage and on the road, a run that leaves them 14th in the table and only six points behind a Reading side that are rapidly closing in on them.
Suddenly the Cottagers are looking extremely wary of relegation and Jol’s post-match demeanour at the Etihad hardly suggested a man who looked up for the battle. There was no rousing speech or any positivity at all from someone you would usually expect it. Rather, the Dutchman looked downbeat and disheartened at the way this season has unravelled.
Clearly, the departures of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, particularly after Fulham had started the season off so promisingly, has hit him hard and despite the early brilliance of Berbatov, the Bulgarian has visibly become ever more frustrated on the field by the mistakes and lack of confidence shown by his teammates around him.
Can Fulham get themselves out of this rut? Perhaps the more pertinent question is can Jol get himself out of his own rut, because if not, then the signs do not bode well for the Cottagers.
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