Alain Goma's Big Day

Monday 29 April 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

The day was momentous, even if the game itself didn't quite match up to the occasion. In an eminently forgettable affair, most interest centred on whether any of Robbie Savage's two footed tackles would actually break Steve Finnan's leg before he had a chance to step onto the plane to Japan, or whether the floppy-haired Welshman would be strung up by a crowd incensed by his theatrically spectacular diving.

Leicester were happy with their point, and crossed the halfway line so infrequently in the second half that goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar could have been just as usefully employed sitting in a coffee-shop in Amsterdam.

The Foxes enjoyed their role as party-poopers, but it was unfortunate that a team with just a modicum of attacking ambition couldn't have been the final opponents as the Cottage said its farewells. Looking at Fulham struggling to break through the massed ranks of blue-shirts, one can only be thankful that this hadn't turned out to be the game on which Premiership survival depended.

Putting in another rock-solid performance at the heart of the defence, and rightly winning the sponsor's man-of-the-match award, centre-half Alain Goma was as frustrated as the fans that the game wasn't one to be filed away in the memory banks.

"We're very disappointed really," he said, "We wanted to win this game to achieve entry into the InterToto Cup, so we're very unhappy with that. We needed a bit more energy to lift our game, to get our rhythm a bit higher, and if we could have done that we would have been able to make a few chances and probably scored some goals."

Goma conceded that there was very much an end of season feel to game, despite the fact that there was still something riding on the result.

"It was flat," said the French international, "It couldn't have been very nice to watch. Everybody tried hard to focus just on the match and not let the occasion get in the way. It was an important game for us knowing that it was the last game at the ground, but really it was more important for us to get the three points. We didn't do it and it's a shame.

"But it's not over yet. We have to keep going and try to get the three points against Blackburn."

The season may have ended up slightly disappointingly - as much to do with unreasonable expectations as much as anything else - but receiving the sponsor's champagne after the game must have been pleasing for the man in with a very good shout of being the White's player of the season.

"I am quite happy with the way things have gone for me this year," said Goma, "This is the first season for a while that I have played so many games, and I've been quite accurate and I think I've done the job that I've been asked to do. I think I've been professional in the efforts I've put in off the pitch, and at the end of the day you get rewarded if you put in the hard work."

It doesn't matter who's in charge, it doesn't matter who the players actually are, Fulham's ability to disappoint on the big occasions remains undiminished. It was perhaps fitting that the old Cottage was dispatched with a sterile nil-nil draw played out by a Whites' side under performing spectacularly. After all, why tinker with a hundred years of tradition?