What. A. Day.
But let’s start at the beginning. A bright and sunny, but breezy day saw everyone meet at the station on time and the train get us to where we were going, also on time. Such incredible unlikeliness had to be taken advantage of and we therefore thronged – yes thronged – through Putney towards the river and The Rocket. At 12.15 it was already packed to the gills with some very familiar faces indeed. We opted for the next door Boathouse which still had one table free outside. Yes, it was going to be one of those days.
Normally you need a second mortgage to drink in Putney but a few rounds at The Amex were expensive even in comparison to this upmarket option and it even had a fantastic sausage roll at over a pound cheaper than ours. The boys found some other boys to play football with, threw ice cubes in to the Thames (as you do) and stared at the fully clothed paddle boarder battling against the tide. Soon the first strains of Sussex By The Sea were filling the air as was some Brighton blue smoke from a canister. As it cleared we found our two in the middle joining in loudly. A leisurely drain of the pint and it was time for a lovely walk along the Thames and through the park (to the horror of the local NCT mums) to the ground.
We were accompanied on this by Ade from the Albion Roar who entertained the kids with unlikely songs about our new German centre back before we got to the away turnstiles and I made the mistake of picking a fanzine seller as a programme seller. PLEASE no one tell TSLR. More embarrassment followed as I inexplicably juggled The Boy’s hot dog and caught it by pressing it against him. It left a large, red ketchup smear on his new away top. We hadn’t even kicked off and he stank of smoke bombs and looked like he’d been fighting Fulham’s top boys under Putney Bridge.
Talking of fighting, my granddad once smashed up his Nursing Home room because it was “too nice”. I know that’s an odd thing to put in to a football report but bear with me. He was an old working class Londoner, brought up in a couple of rooms on the Caledonian Road and could not bear anything that was too good or too posh as he considered it above him. Four years on and I still feel a similar way about The Amex. I don’t want to smash it up, obviously, but it does feel too good for a lad brought up on the Goldstone North Stand and with a few Withdean seasons in the bank. Going to a ground like Fulham just reinforces it.
On the face of it, it should be so much more middle class than us. On the river – in bloody PUTNEY – with the gourmet sausage and pie vendors having moved in and with a Grade 2 Listed Building in the corner it simply screams Quinoa and BMWs. Yet its seats are not padded and its sight lines are awful. And, as with modern football anywhere, they are perfectly happy to sell you forty quids worth of tickets for said awful view. But don’t take my word for it, this is what we had.
I mention it because, by now, you will have realised that this is one of those posts where you don’t get a sensible match report. I’d like to see Andy Naylor file a sensible match report after three pints of Youngs, hemmed in the corner and with an eight year old trying to dodge in and out to see something of the pitch.
There was one significant change to the team from the Forest game. As I had correctly predicted on Twitter (but not in my preview for a Fulham site) Dunk dropped to the bench (more of his situation shortly) with Uwe Húnnemeir making his debut.
And what a debut. We completely bossed the first half. The relief cascaded through the away end and the songs reached us in the corner easily. A few minutes in and we were already losing our voices when the Albion hit the bar after a lovely move down the right through, well, through SOMEONE in bright yellow. It was at the other end you see. But when Fulham did go on one of their rare attacks we got a very good view indeed of the Big Fucking German tidying up, and organising the defence or throwing his body on the line. When he wasn’t then Bong was outracing their wingers having given them a couple of yards start, My God he’s quick.
Eventually this masterful defence and attacking pressure combined to give us the lead. Uwe (look, I’m going to call him that, it’s easier and saves use of ALTGR) breaking up a Fulham break and finding a lovely pass down our right. Even lovelier was Bruno’s centre and Baldock couldn’t miss. He didn’t. ONE OF OUR STRIKERS HAS SCORED KLAXON.
What we then didn’t need was Fulham coming back in to it and scoring a worldy. And of course, they came back in to it and scored a worldy. Perhaps we should have cleared down our left but when we didn’t Pringle set the ball over to Cairney who was a fair way out and on the angle. He curled a magnificent drive past Stockdale and in to the top corner anyway. We went in at a highly undeserved 1-1.
We deserved nothing out of the second half though which just made the eventual outcome even better. Fulham closed us down quicker, kept the ball better and hit long balls from all over that kept our defence under constant pressure. They didn’t actually score but could have on a number of occasions. We looked overrun or bypassed in midfield and, on the odd occasions we released March he had the unfortunate habit of devising new ways to give it straight back to Fulham.
On eighty eight minutes we and the blokes in front of us agreed we would take a point.
On ninety minutes we and the blokes in front of us howled at how four extra minutes could have been awarded.
On ninety plus three we managed to break out down our left and Kazenga was through with one player to beat. He couldn’t again could he? Well no. But only because he was tripped from behind a yard in to the box. PENALTY!
The blokes in front of us helped the boys to see, whereas I, who hate watching these, covered my eyes. I opened them just in time to see Hemed run up and send the keeper the wrong way. The away end went mental. Absolutely mental. A minute later and the whistle went. 2-1 us.
Things just got better. On the way out the Championship table was being shown. We were top of it. As I type we are the only team with a 100% record after two games. This suggests another tight Championship season. And so we move back to Dunk.
If I were Tony (and I appreciate it’s his money) I would be drawing up a new contract right now because, if we’re even close on wages, it makes no sense for Lewis to go to Fulham. They look an average well drilled, long ball team. They badly need him at centre back. On this evidence, even though they bossed much of the second half, they will not be going up or even close. Why would you swap decent sight lines, padded seats and the world’s most expensive sausage roll for that?