Fulham 0-0 West Ham
1. Why I Subscribe To Sky
I trust you all had a Merry Christmas. I wonder if you, as I did, flicked through the channels late on Christmas night, whilst sitting on the sofa feeling a little bit 'Paddy Kenny', and discovered the truly mental - "Michael Bolton - A Tribute on Ice"?
'What the hell is this - has he died?' I said, out loud, with perhaps a bit too much hope in my voice judging by the shocked gasps from the gallery. Apparently not, but there he was, standing beside an ice rink, butchering Nessun Dorma like, well, Michael Bolton, as some poor girl tried to ignore her bleeding ears and do a few back flips.
Anyway, this was all so surreal that I began to wonder if I wasn't living out some odd kind of experiment like The Truman Show whereby I am made to suffer purely for the entertainment of others.
A little tangential I know but it would certainly go a long way towards explaining how we could lose at home to Newcastle, Reading, Wigan and Portsmouth.
(And by the way - who the hell sings at their own tribute show?)
2. Errant Knight
Let's go back a bit - before I went through the looking glass to a world where Michael Bolton is worthy of tribute, and reminisce a little. Fulham seems a long time ago now, but we were actually quite good. Indeed if it were a boxing match we would have won comfortably on points.
If it was an actual boxing match it would have been crap though. Are there two softer teams in the league than us and Fulham?
I digress - we were unlucky with injuries again though. Zat Knight was injured for this game which gave Fulham an unfortunate fillip as it meant they could play an actual professional footballer in the middle of their defence instead. Knight was absent, having broken his jaw whilst "mucking around at home with his brother". If I ever get the chance to go back in time I'd like to come back and see Chris Coleman's reaction to getting that news.
You might imagine that if I had a power such as that I might choose something a bit more momentous like the Crucifixion, the "I have a dream" speech or us winning away from home but none of those would have fit the joke. Do keep up.
3. Y2K + 7?
Just in case you believe in these sorts of things I did notice a couple of worrying phenomena during this game that could indicate the world is shortly about to end:
Matthew Etherington hit the bar. With a header.
Marlon Harewood controlled a ball with his right foot and hit a swivelling half volley on to the post with his left.
Some Fulham fans sung.
Get as many bottles of water into your basement as you can.
4. The Statistics
We had 49% of possession which is evidence of a fairly competitive game. The difference being that we carved out a number of good chances, hitting the woodwork twice and twice having balls cleared off the line.
Fulham's best chance fell to Brian McBride who tried to slot it home whilst having an epileptic fit of some kind. He didn't score anyway.
5. The Referee
Chris Foy got the three major decisions of the game wrong. He failed to award Fulham a penalty after adjudging Spector to have fouled Tomasz Radzinski in the first half. Why anyone would bother to foul Radzinski is beyond me but there you go, he did, and it should have been a spot kick.
He then missed Liam Rosenior handling on the line at the other end before sending off Paul Konchesky with 5 minutes left after a perfectly timed tackle on Wayne Routledge.
All three of these, particularly the last one, merely highlighted how totally and utterly useless linesmen are these days. Konchesky clearly took the ball before Routledge tumbled over and the lino had a clear view of it. Rather than risk confrontation and assist the referee he took the easy option and kept quiet. When this card gets rescinded I sincerely hope that Chris Foy rings up the linesman and gives him a bit of abuse. Not only is it good for the soul every now and again (see "Dawson, Michael (n) - large inanimate object") but it might convince a few linesmen and women to expand their remit past merely awarding throw ins and corners.
6. The Opposition
Not since I last saw Sheffield United play (*shivers involuntarily*) have I seen a footballer go through 90 minutes and commit a foul every single time he was involved in play. Step forward then Michael Brown - one nasty little bastard if ever I saw one.
And perhaps not surprisingly a product of the Sheffield United youth academy, where one suspects they work on long throws, heading and granny bashing.
Also interesting to see that the player involved in the sending off was Wayne Routledge. A product of the Crystal Palace youth academy and a member of Iain Dowie's promotion winning team of 2004, who were master divers. Andy Johnson being first among cheats in that particular vintage.
It's interesting what a players history can tell you sometimes.
West Ham 1 -2 Portsmouth
1. There's Being Shocked And There's Being Shocking
Alan Curbishley pronounced himself "a bit shocked" at this first half display. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that he took some mind alteringly hard drugs during his sabbatical away from the game, because performances like this have been all too common at Upton Park this season.
I don't want to be the one who starts jerking his knee around uncontrollably but I do get a tad frustrated when games like this are casually swept under the carpet by pundits who say "Ashton comes back et voila - they'll be ok".
Well, no. Dean Ashton is coming back from a serious injury into a team bereft of confidence and seriously lacking creativity. Just how is he going to score any goals when we are playing 4-5-1 at home to bloody Portsmouth?
I don't want to offend Charlton fans unneccesarily but I have to say that perhaps Curbishley needs to adjust his expectations somewhat if he thinks it's acceptable to play this formation against anyone at home, let alone a team like Pompey.
That might have been ok at The Valley but it's not going to help him here. Not that there is any basis for us to have loftier aspirations than Charlton given the recent histories of both teams, but for whatever reason we do and Curbishley needs to be aware of that. Lose the crowd and you'll more than likely lose your job. Sort of like Gladiator but bloodier and more internecine.
This was a performance of such soporific listlessness that even yawning seemed like an act of great derring-do by comparison.
Just to clarify, I don't actually care if I offend any Charlton fans but I'm not intentionally trying to. I think they have enough to worry about what with having accidentally replaced Iain Dowie as manager with their coach driver for 11 games.
3. The Statistics
We had 60% possession in this game according to MoTD. This was somehow constructed into just 3 shots on target. It should give you some idea of the quality of this game that the team who had the ball for 3/5ths of the time managed one shot on goal every half an hour.
Just to throw the above into even sharper relief. If you imagine possession of the ball as the Superman films we had it right from the first one, all the way through General Zod and that weird one with Richard Pryor.
Sometimes it's easier to face surreality than reality.
4. The Opposition
Portsmouth remain impressive if only because they are so much more than the sum of their parts. They are well organised, solid defensively and in Pedro Mendes they have one of the Premiership's most underrated players. How tottenham considered him to be inferior to Jermain Jenas is a mystery. Mind you, how they consider anyone to be inferior to JJ is a profound conundrum.
All of that said - allowing Linvoy Primus to score against you is rather like shoving an apple up your nose. It's stupid, it's painful and absolutely impossible to do more than once in the same day.
5. While We're At It Department
How come when we've allowed a man with all the goalscoring frequency of a corpse to head the opening goal do we then promptly allow him to do it again? And why was he being marked by 5"11 Hayden Mullins?
The footballing equivalent of walking around a jail cell with your wallet open and moaning about being mugged.
6. Deja Vu
Just to go over a couple of points raised earlier this season:
This defending lark seems like a capital idea. Perhaps we'll give it a go one day.
Just what exactly is our midfield doing so well that Javier Mascherano cannot even get into the squad for games such as this? On that - in what situation are we ever likely to need both George McCartney and Christian Dailly on the bench? Because if it ever arises, it's probably time to abandon all hope.
Does Carlton Cole even exist anymore?
I bet when Carlos Tevez wrote home for Christmas he couldn't wait to tell his family how much he is enjoying watching Harewood and Zamora rampage around like two drunk elephants. His performance on Saturday showed more inspiration than the rest of them put together.
I'm not sure how much longer I can keep watching the same old faces trotting out there and under performing against the sides that we need to beat. One off barnstormers against the top 3 can't be relied upon to keep us up when we are playing so appallingly against everyone else.
Give the Boys form the Barrio a proper go Curbs. I'd rather be hung as a wolf than a sheep.
7. Just To Quell Any Optimism
Our run in:
Sheffield Utd (a)
Man Utd (a)
I especially love those last 2 games. This is not a 38 game season folks, especially now that Charlton have sacked the groundsman and installed an actual professional football manager.......
Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering
I've been wondering whether or not to call a truce with Big 'Ol Useless Mike but then I watched the highlights of tottenham's two games over Christmas and saw him give away a goal in each.
At this time of year it's not wise to ignore signs from above.