Fulham were never at the races and the 0-3 flattered to deceive us. Even had Dempsey’s powerful run and fifth minute shot dipped under Vorm and gone in, there was soon a feeling around the ground that only the Orange side would earn a result today. Like Villa last week, Swansea City pressed us but had the athleticism to sustain the harrying over the 93 minutes. Swansea City defends with relish. Unlike most sides, they seemed to accelerate the pace defensively, playing two ball winners on each forward in possession. They exploited our narrow tendency, packing four tight across the back and then exploited their wing play to open gaps between our forwards and defensive midfielders. This was notable on the second goal, where Dembélé and Diarra were left far behind the play. The constant pressure was mentally taxing as well. It was no coincidence that it was Senderos who was almost comically pressurized down the right side, and it was he who was caught in possession in the inside right, and then slipped on the edge of the box before Allen's deflecting shot skipped above Schwarz for the Welsh side's third. The most comparable match to this in recent memory was Fulham 0 Reading 2 in November '06, just before our victory during the weeknight against Arsenal.
Diarra played poorly, as did everyone else. He made uncharacteristically poor decisions, with his passes consistently too long or too high or both. We played straight through the midfield most times. It seemed we looked on most balls for Pogrebnyak much as we once did for that other bloke who works up the road with Leslie and supports West Ham. On SS2, our Tony Gale was uncomplimentary towards Martin Jol's team selection. I initially agreed with Jol that we had looked better with Diarra than with Murphy at CM at Villa Park and in the post match press interviews, he said the change was indeed tactical. Nonetheless, even though it was Diarra who was left exposed on Sigurdsson's second, he had a massive go at Dempsey whilst Swansea celebrated. Initially, Clint waved it off with a shake of his right hand, but Diarra kept yelling at him. They were 10 yards away from me in the front row of Riverside XL, but I would not hear for the sound of Welsh triumphalism. Eventually, Diarra said something that got Clint's Texas up and he started walking towards Diarra and giving it back. One of the assistant referees, or perhaps Mr. Halsey himself then restrained Diarra. By this time Frei, the most Swansea like Fulham player, at least in size, though he is equally one footed to Peter Crouch, finally came on after waiting on the touch line for at least eight minutes. By this time the substitution was redundant and a few minutes later Diarra was off as well. I am not sure whether the TV cameras caught the Diarra-Dempsey confrontation and I fortunately missed MOTD.
After the match, I participated in a focus group study for a relaunch of fulhamfc.com. It soon turned into group therapy for me and the twelve or fifteen other supporters including Dan Crawford of the excellent www.hammyend.com
, and I was happy to exchange my cup of Bovril for something slightly stronger in one of the Hammersmith boxes. We advocated for easier navigation, a continuation of the white background and I added my requests for more Academy/ Reserves info and curation of visual and audio content, including Gentleman Jim. There were also suggestions on using the existing site to better promote away matches. Hopefully, that might arrest the virtuous cycle between away results and attendance.
When a beautiful woman walks in and offers pints of best, no gentleman would fail to oblige, so off I followed Sarah Brookes to McBride's. There are also unspoken rules against repeating what is said in off the record briefings and keeping secrets is something of a professional skill for me. It is suffice to say I found her sincere, funny and deeply committed to Fulham Football Club, its supporters and the values which make us special. (Down boy!)
On the night Tony Blair won his Premiership, John Major stood in the lobby of No 10 and said "All right, well, we lost," and tonight so did Fulham, almost as comprehensively as New Labour won on that long night in May '97. This morning in defeat, I feel my sense of ownership in and affirmation of the ineffable Fulham community revalidated as only our club can do.