Dave Woodhall waxes lyrical on the charms of an afternoon by the Thames.
As ever, I may as well start with a eulogy to the magnificent excursion that is Fulham away. Even a packed train couldn’t dampen the spirit. Neither could tube closures that meant having to use five different trains to get to Putney Bridge. And the ever-increasing price of beer in the capital (change from four quid a pint is cause for rejoicing) cast but a minor quibble in the sheer, unbridled, pleasure that is Fulham away.
Then there was the match. And boy, did that ruin the day. It wasn’t a particularly bad performance, not by the standards of the past twelve months, but I had hoped Villa would offer more in the way of attacking invention. Instead, they seemed to have settled for a point before the second half was very old and hoping Fulham were equally uninterested in scoring. The plan might have worked had the old failing of marking at set-pieces not shown itself again.
Christian Benteke missed another chance almost immediately, and at the moment he seems to epitomise the team. Do you praise him for getting into good positions, the team for the odd promising performance and encourage them both for their potential? Or do you criticise his failure to capitalise on the chances he gets, and their worrying lack of points? Being optimistic, I still feel that there’s nothing wrong with either that a couple of goals and wins respectively isn’t going to put right. But I do wish both events would hurry up.
The result left Fulham with 32 points from their last fourteen home games. Fortress Craven Cottage doesn’t exactly sound right but that tally is the same number as Villa have notched up in the past 38 matches in total. I wonder what might have happened during the summer of 2010 had Martin Jol been unemployed rather than happily in charge of Ajax. If he’d been available and Villa had offered him the job when Martin O’Neill left we might be two years down the line of rebuilding and a bit less worried about how Southampton and Reading are getting on.
The tube was easier on the way back and the train a bit less crowded. Fulham will still be there next season.