Well, we did it. Through to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup & Saturday’s disastrous defeat has been put to bed. For now.
The Witch was with me for this one & we had a great view of events from our place in the left hand corner of the Putney Stand. I’ve always liked coming to Craven Cottage, it’s not often you can see the River Thames from inside a football ground. The atmosphere was well.. Bouncing.
The team news was pretty positive I thought. We put a strong side out, for sure. Mascarell in for Eustace, Hendrick in for Hughes, Bucko in for Whitbread, Dawkins in for Ibe & Roos in for the cup-tied Butland. From what I could see, Fulham put out a young, inexperienced side, with the world cup star Brian Ruiz in the floppy haired, flouncy playmaker role. Apart from him I can’t say I recognised anyone. Well, the goalkeeper in pyjamas looked pretty familiar.
I don’t think we played too badly during that first half. We had a good amount of possession & knocked the ball around well. It was all a bit tippy-tappy though, we were lacking a bit of directness near their area. Not unusual that.Fulham looked pacy & tricky going forward & the big French lad, Moussa Dembélé, up front was causing us a few problems with his strong running.
The two goals we conceded, both adeptly slotted away by Dembélé, were frankly ludicrous from our point of view. The first was a clear mistake by Fozzy, who didn’t look up before passing back to Roos. The second goal was a really a mistake from Roos, who passed out to Mascarell when he was surrounded by 3 Fulham players. Keogh & Bucko were completely absent. You could say there was a bit of consternation amongst the massed ranks of standing Rams fans. The Watford fan next to me wasn’t that impressed either.
Then a crucial moment. Mascarell fired in an excellent free kick (probably the best one I’ve seen in the last two years, although that’s not saying much..). Hoogland handballed it & Martin smashed in the resultant penalty. We were back in the game. And, by the way, how come a deliberate handball just results in a telling off from the referee rather than a booking or a sending off?
I was pretty positive during the half time debrief with Spicy Kev. Unfortunately, he appeared to think it was the end of the world. Thankfully, it wasn’t & we started the 2nd half on the front foot, no doubt inspired by a rollicking from McClaren. We were level within 2 minutes, with Russell scoring decisively after fine work on the byline by Dawkins. That was quickly followed by a stunning strike from Dawkins, a close range goal from Jeff & a lovely flick from Dawkins. I have to say I thought Fulham failed to show up in the 2nd half & their defending was simply non-existent. But we clinically took advantage of that with some incredible goals. We were in dreamland in the Putney End.
There was still time for a welcome reappearance for Paul Coutts after his recovery from long term injury. He did a neat, robust job & is certainly an option if McClaren thinks he needs to add a bit more steel in central midfield. Dawkins went off to a standing ovation, which was a nice contrast with what he had to face earlier in the season. He was simply brilliant in that 2nd half, if he can continue in that vein then that’ll certainly boost our attacking strength as the season progresses. Hughes did really well when he came on to, I hope that’s a sign he’s put his poor performance against Wigan behind him.
A word about Bucko. A solid presence next to Keogh & a massive step up from Whitbread in terms of distribution. Providing he’s now fully fit, he deserves a starting place.
So, Chelsea in the quarter-final. Frankly, I’m neither frightened or excited by that. I see this cup run as mainly being about the club getting a chance to use a few squad players & gain some momentum for our League campaign. That’s our priority. Making a bit of money from a full house in December will be an added bonus too.
Anyway, let’s see if we can keep our momentum going for the tricky game at Brentford on Saturday. A draw will suit just fine.