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Bradford survive

Pre-season tour
Gallen signs
Hornets sting Town
Owls shot down
Gray returns
Wijnhard crashes out
Worthington woe
Ayre departs
First home point
Bye Bye Brucie
New manager announced
Fans show anger
9 points to safety
First home win
Ndlovu at first sight
Town leap to safety
Macari wins award
More cup woe
Ndlovu joins Blades
Jamie jumps ship
Town hit rock bottom again
Morris' McApline move
Prodigal son returns
Biggest win
QPR doomed
Nearly there
The bitter end

Saturday 14th April.

As predicted on Wednesday and Friday but not on Thursday, Andy Booth has failed to recover from the ankle knock picked up at Deepdale on Wednesday. Not predicted though was Lou Macari’s decision to lay with only one striker with Delroy Facey left to plough a lone furrow up front, Simon Baldry replacing the absent Booth.

With almost the entire division separating the sides I found myself counting off the minutes as I felt that it might only be a matter of time before we conceded a goal, but as it turned out Macari seemed to have the tactics right for this game. Without really dominating proceedings Fulham looked the better side and created their first real chance after 7 minutes but Luis Boa Morte shot well wide from 12 yards out having earlier failed to meet a Louis Saha flick on.

Delroy Facey looked very isolated in his lone striker’s role and received little support from Thornley and Baldry who were more involved in the defensive side of the game, but this was a game that no one really expected to win and a shutout would be a good afternoon’s work. Midway through the half there was a bit of a scare when Chris Lucketti was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Louis Saha, but thankfully after some fairly lengthy treatment they were both able to continue although it would have been nice to see the back of Saha.

The Frenchman illustrated his recovery with a header over the bar just a few minutes later, but Fulham didn’t have everything their own way. Craig Armstrong’s in swinging corner almost sneaked under the bar but it was tipped away by Taylor in the Fulham goal, and the Fulham stopper had to react well a few minutes later to turn a 25-yard shot from Armstrong around the post. Much of the rest of the half was dominated by the physical presence of the midfield duo of Craig Armstrong and Chris Holland who did much to snuff out any threat from the Londoners. Thomas Heary also played his part, enjoying one of his more competent games and eliminating the threat of Andrejs Stolcers as Town contained Fulham with increasing ease as the half progressed. Lee Clark tried his luck from 30 yards out, but the interval arrived with the scores level and an unlikely point looked more and more likely as Fulham hardly managed a single shot on target.

The second half began much as the first had finished with Fulham doing most of the pressing but Town operating a tight formation intent on not conceding a goal. Facey did have a goal disallowed in the opening minutes as he was adjudged to be offside, but it was Fulham who were starting to tighten their grip on the game. The referee didn’t enjoy Town’s physical approach as much as the home fans did and insisted on awarding free kick after free kick as the visitors suffered the gravitational pull of the pitch each time they were challenged. Perhaps it was the influence of Frenchman Jean Tigana but Fulham seemed adept at winning the favour of the official from Hertfordshire, and should prosper in the Premiership where this is so much more prevalent.

Unfortunately, Town’s hard work was ruined in the 67th minute when Fulham took the lead. A through ball from Stolcers into the penalty was collected by Luis Boa Morte, and as Chris Lucketti slid in to dispossess the Portuguese international he was adjudged to have made contact with the player before the ball. I am not sure that I particularly agree and haven’t had the benefit of seeing a replay so I suppose I will have to lump it as my opinion counts for little on the field of play, and the resulting spot kick was efficiently dispatched past Nico Vaesen by Louis Saha.

The tactic of trying to frustrate Fulham and hold on for a 0-0 draw was abandoned just after they took the lead, and Ben Thornley was sacrificed for Kevin Gallen to give us a little more cutting edge up front. The tactic seemed to work and Town began to look a little more ambitious in the Fulham half of the pitch, and the increased pressure paid off in the 77th minute when Town equalised though Delroy Facey in typical fashion. Once again a ball was played towards the Fulham penalty area (I forget who by) and Delroy Facey used his pace and muscle to beat 2 Fulham defenders to the ball and rifle a shot past Taylor from 12 yards.

On the balance of play the equaliser felt justified as Town deserved more out of the game having played well enough to take a point from the game. Sadly, the point we had worked so hard to achieve was thrown away by a moment of madness from Nico Vaesen. The Belgian had already needed to be quickly away from his line twice to deny Fulham, but made a serious error of judgement in the 85th minute. A raking pass by Steve Finnan towards the left side of the penalty had Vaesen rushing off his line to clear the danger, but on this occasion Luis Boa Morte was able to get a toe onto the ball and lift it into the back of the net.

The two and a half thousand or so supporters behind Vaesen's goal went delirious with joy with the rest of the ground furious with the Belgian for spoiling what promised to be a good afternoon’s work. There was no need for Vaesen to be so hasty leaving his line as Boa Morte wasn’t even in a particularly good shooting position, and it was even more frustrating bearing in mind Vaesen’s reluctance to leave his line on so many other occasions this season. With only 5 minutes of the game remaining there wasn’t enough time for Town to break down the Fulham defence for a second time. The final whistle arrived soon after with a sense of deep frustration for the home fans.

I am sick to death of having to endure other teams supporters celebrating their achievements at the McAlpine. In the past we have had to endure Birmingham’s promotion party as well as Portsmouth and Port Vale securing survival and now we can add Fulham to the list. There have probably been others but I don’t care to remember them at this point in time, I just wish that we could be party poopers once in a while, and if we carry on like this we’ll qualify to register as a charitable organisation! Crystal Palace and Tranmere both lost today, whilst draws for QPR, Portsmouth and Stockport probably don’t do us too much harm. The bottom 2 are starting to look fairly doomed now but only a handful of points separates the teams above them. We have another extremely difficult game on Monday at noon away at Blackburn Rovers and we cannot rely on other teams to screw things up. We only have 5 games left to get ourselves out of our predicament and Macari’s prediction that the season will go to the wire will probably not be far off the mark.

TOWN 1 (Facey 77)

Fulham 2 (Saha 67 (pen), Boa Mote 85)

Position in table – 21st

Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Dyson; Heary; Thornley (Gallen 68); Armstrong; Holland; Facey; Gorré; Baldry. Subs not used – Margetson; Moses; Brennan; Irons.

Fulham – Taylor; Finnan; Melville; Symons; Brevett; Sahnoun (Davis 80); Clark; Stolcers; Goldbaek (Riedle 71); Saha (Moller 89); Boa Morte. Subs not used – Hahnemann; Nielson.

Referee – Keith Hunt (Herts.). Attendance 15,882



All words and thoughts by Chris except where stated.

A big thank you to Machala for putting up with me doing this and Ian for his support and my Mum for her proof reading.

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