POST MATCH RAMBLE: Fulham -v- Wednesday

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Fulham -v- Wednesday

I’d been looking forward to this one for a while — a London away day just five days before Christmas.

I’ve been lucky since moving to the capital in September, with away games at Brentford and Charlton coming in quick succession.

I’d been up to Hillsborough for the 0-0 draw against Rotherham and seen the Huddersfield game on TV but I was ready for my latest Wednesday fix.

It had been a busy week, both at work and with various Christmas parties, and despite getting in late again on Friday night I was determined to get up early, have a proper breakfast and then set off for the pub.

Best laid plans and all that. Despite setting my alarm for 9 I managed to sleep right through it and woke up with a start at 10.30.

I just about had time to jump in the shower and chuck some clothes on before catching the bus. So much for breakfast.

I met up with Baldy, aka Joe London, who has become the Pied Piper of our London away days.

Some might argue that his directions leave a little to be desired (mainly those who have ever ended up in Swanscombe) but we met at the tube station as planned and headed for Hammersmith.

At one point during the week I was beginning to think it might be a cosy man-date for the two of us, with very few of the usual suspects seemingly making their way down to the game.

Two pints: Hardly worthy of table service

Two pints: Hardly worthy of table service

Thankfully when we got to the chosen pub, another London-based Owl Jordan was there with his Dad.

It was one of those strange places that isn’t sure whether it’s a pub or a restaurant so when I stood at the bar, the Aussie barmaid/waitress told me to sit down and she would take my ‘order’.

Two pints hardly counts as an order but she brought the drinks over and off she popped without asking to be paid. London and its strange ways.

Anyway before long there was a good crowd of us, some of us knew each other, some of us didn’t and others didn’t know if/when they had met before! Jordan, for example, is still convinced he met me at Charlton a few seasons back, even though I didn’t actually go to that game.

The place was fairly quiet but for a group of lads/bodybuilders sat in front of us — thankfully they weren’t blocking the view of the TV as I don’t think I’d have been the one to tell them to move.

The Pied Piper decided we should move on at half time and for once nobody had a full pint so we set off on a ‘riverside stroll’ towards the ground to the next pub.

I had a good chat with Sean about The Wednesday Cricket Club, which has gone from strength to strength since it was resurrected 2011.

A group of enthusiastic amateurs (including myself) has now turned into a proper club with both an inconsistent midweek side and a promotion-winning Sunday side, with ambitions to keep on growing.

To achieve that in four short years is a testament to the hard work of people like Sean and I urge anyone who supports Wednesday and plays cricket to a decent standard gets involved.

There was one moment of confusion when it turned out you couldn’t actually walk along the river but we got there in the end and had a quick pint – well not that quick as it turned out as the place was rammed.

Craven Cottage: Proper football ground

Craven Cottage: Proper football ground

We managed to lose half the group by the time we headed towards the Cottage but we made it in good time.

I’ve been to Craven Cottage before, although not to watch Wednesday, and as you walk along the Johnny Haynes Stand towards the Putney End you can’t help but utter the words ‘proper ground’ under your breath as you admire the brick façade.

We entered via the unique ‘neutral/away’ entrance and as we got to the other side Beastie and Hollie were stood there and we all gave them both a great big hug.

Beastie has become disillusioned about watching Wednesday and football in general so it was great to see him, albeit briefly, and his absence from future away games will be a big loss.

It may be a proper ground but the away end very much has that temporary stand feel with its metal exterior and bouncy steps. I made my way right up to the back to row XX just as the players were heading out.

The 4,000 Wednesdayites around me were already in good voice and I was optimistic we could get another decent result in London.


Cracking view from the back, despite the post

Cracking view from the back, despite the post

Stuart Gray had decided to set up with a 4-5-1 with Joe Mattock coming back into the side at left back, Jeremy Helan shifting to central midfield and Stevie May ploughing a lone furrow up front.

The early signs were encouraging with Wednesday passing the ball about more confidently than the hosts.

Our best early chance fell to Tom Lees from a Chris Maguire corner but the centre half could only fire over the crossbar.

Fulham then had an even better chance right in front of us when Lasse Vigen Christensen took the ball round Keiren Westwood only for Lees to clear off the line.

Both sides had half-chances in the first half hour but neither ‘keeper had a proper save to make.

The acoustics in the Putney End were terrific and, full of Christmas cheer, the Wednesday fans were in fine voice while their Fulham counterparts seemed to barely muster any enthusiasm, perhaps a result of losing their last home game 5-0 to Watford.

It was a tale of two free-kicks that eventually separated the sides.

Lewis McGugan had a golden opportunity to put the Owls ahead with a free-kick from a prime position on the edge of the box but his effort could only find the side netting, despite a fair proportion of Wednesday fans thinking the ball had gone in.

Ten minutes later the ball was in the back of the net as Ross McCormack curled in a free-kick from a similar distance to McGugan’s, although on the other side of the box.

Ex-Leeds man McCormack makes it 1-0 to Fulham

Ex-Leeds man McCormack makes it 1-0 to Fulham

I had a bad feeling about the free-kick the moment it was given with Glenn Loovens booked and Westwood frantically trying to organise his wall.

It was a hammer blow after a promising start and the mood in the away end was suddenly muted.

Ten minutes later that mood got even worse when Fulham doubled their lead.

Jeremy Helan was booked for a fairly innocuous challenge on Jack Grimmer out on the right wing which gave Fulham a chance to whip the ball in right on the stroke of half time.

Bryan Ruiz delivered a lovely cross and an unmarked Sean Hutchinson had the simple task of heading past a helpless Westwood.

After the second goal, the ball ended up somewhere in the Thames

After the second goal, the ball ended up somewhere in the Thames

The brilliant ‘keeper was apoplectic with his defence and booted the ball over the Riverside End and straight into the Thames which runs right along the outside of the ground.

Half time came and suddenly I began to feel the cold as those around me disappeared to the concourse.

HALF TIME: Fulham 2-0 Wednesday.

It was clear we had to go for it in the second half and Stuart Gray clearly felt the same, bringing on Atdhe Nuhiu for the ineffectual Kieran Lee and Royston Drenthe for Joe Mattock.

Bizarrely Drenthe wasn’t allowed onto the pitch before we kicked off so we played a good 30 seconds with ten men before the ball went out and he was allowed on.

The changes certainly gave the Owls some attacking impetus, with Drenthe looking energetic as ever although Nuhiu, a player I like, had an absolute stinker.

He got up well to win headers in the box but they mostly ended up nearer the corner flag than the net.

We had plenty of corners though and the away fans were back at full voice again, urging the team on and berating the Fulham fans with ‘2-0 and you still don’t sing’.

You started to get the feeling it wasn’t going to be our day when we weren’t getting 50/50 decisions, the ball kept bouncing kindly for Fulham and then a decent shout for handball was waved away.

Christensen's goal finished the game as a contest

Christensen’s goal finished the game as a contest

Fulham’s third goal was the real kick in the teeth.

Wednesday had a corner, which managed to bounce off about four players before falling nicely to a Fulham man. They broke quickly and incisively and within 30 seconds Christensen had slotted home the killer blow.

No sooner had the ball gone in the back of the net than all hell broke loose in the away end. But I don’t mean half the crowd walked out.

Instead there was a defiant cry of ‘If you don’t f’ing bounce’ which spread amongst the Wednesday faithful and by the time the game resumed the chanting was louder than ever and the bouncing was higher than before.

It was almost a case of, ‘Yes we’re 3-0 down, but we’re here to support the team regardless’.

A terrific moment and the fervent atmosphere continued for a good ten minutes as Wednesday tried to get the goal the fans so craved but couldn’t muster anything like a decent chance.

In the final ten minutes Fulham took control and it was clear a few of our players were counting down to the final whistle.

Woodrow's penalty made the scoreline even more one-sided

Woodrow’s penalty made the scoreline even more one-sided

There was still time for the hosts to add salt to the wounds, though, when Claude Dielna brought down Patrick Roberts in the box and Cauley

Woodrow slotted home the penalty. 4-0. It was never a 4-0 game but you couldn’t really argue with the scoreline given Fulham’s clinical finishing and our profligacy.

You could see Westwood was still absolutely furious at the end as he came over to the Wednesday fans and hurled his gloves and shirt into the crowd.

Lees was stood just behind him and I think he thought better of going over to him and discussing the weather.

FULL TIME: Fulham 4-0 Wednesday.

As I was heading towards the exit I bumped into a mate who had been sat in the neutral section.

He lives in Putney so he’d just gone along to see some football.

He couldn’t speak highly enough of the noise created by the Wednesday fans and he said it felt like an earthquake when we were bouncing at one point.

Fulham have got some genuine quality in the side

Fulham have got some genuine quality in the side

We carried on the discussion back at his local near Putney Bridge and he pointed out that, with the likes of Ross McCormack and Hugo Rodallega in their side, there’s no way Fulham should be at the wrong end of the table.

He definitely had a point and it made me feel a little less disheartened about the result.

I couldn’t really pick out one Wednesday player for particular criticism, nor one that stood out above the rest. It was a poor performance by the whole team.

Lewis McGugan annoyed me a bit in the second half though when, at 3-0 down, he was doing fancy turns and attempting Hollywood balls, as if he knows he is in the shop window and wanted to show off a bit rather than try to get us back into the game.

I think as fans Wednesdayites have a tendency to overreact and not look at the bigger picture.

If we win a couple of games, we’re the best thing since sliced bread and we’re going to win the league.

If we lose a couple of games it’s doom and gloom and people start talking about getting rid of a decent manager.

championship tableOur position in the league is an accurate reflection of what we are — a mid-table side.

If all things are equal we will finish around 12th-14th this season.

If we go on a decent run at some stage we might squeeze into the top ten, which I think would be a fantastic achievement.

If we go on a bad run, we’re in danger of getting dragged into the relegation scrap BUT we should have enough quality to avoid getting really sucked in.

As fans we always expect more but when you compare our budget to a team like Fulham, it suggests we’re punching above our weight just to be competing with them for a mid-table berth.

It may not sit well with some of our fans that we struggle to compete with a club the size of Fulham but unfortunately it’s where we are right now, in our 15th season outside the top flight.

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

Owls Alive

Twitter: @CraigSWFC and @OwlsAlive

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