Rock Solid

Wednesday 7 December 2005

Saturday's dogged performance in the face of adversity has won the Fulham players high praise from Chris Coleman and Steve Kean. Demonstrating signs of a resilience that has been lacking away from home in recent games, the ten-man Whites held out for the entire second half to record not only a vital away point, but a well deserved clean sheet too.

However another stern test lies ahead on Saturday with the visit to St Andrews. Given their perilous League position, Birmingham will be desperate for any point they can get and will be hoping to see Fulham's inconsistencies come back to haunt them.

But as Steve Kean told fulhamfc.com after the West Brom game, it's got to be more of the same from Fulham...

You must have been happy with the work rate on Saturday, particularly with the one-man disadvantage...

Everybody knows that we've worked hard on the physical and fitness side of our game a lot since pre-season and that comes into it's own when you go down to ten men. The boys put in an unbelievable shift. From where we were standing it seemed that they all covered every blade of grass on the field.

What was the game plan up at West Brom?

We spoke a lot about the shape of the team in training last week and we made a point of trying to be more stubborn. We've got exceptional pace with the full backs and Volzy and Liam are always eager to go forward.

But we emphasized that it was all about picking and choosing our time to go forward. That way we could be more solid at the back. I think teams have noticed that we like to attack from those positions, so when we lose possession they immediately hit us in those channels.

So we said to the boys to keep the back four as solid as possible as much as possible, and with Bouba, to defend with five, and then to attack with five. But that obviously all changed as soon as Boa got sent off, and we had to revert to attacking with a four.

So it really was a case of keep attacking as we have been, but tighten up at the back?

After most games we go and have a quick drink with the opposition's management staff, and almost everyone we've met this season has complimented us on how good we are in possession and that they're fearful when we've got the ball in the final third.

But they've also said in the past that, because of the way we go forward, we can leave ourselves open at the back. But after the game on Saturday, Bryan Robson and his staff commented on how fit we looked, how well we defended and how it didn't even really look like we just had ten men.

We know that we're always going to open teams up with our forward play because we've got so many attack-minded players, but we just told the boys at the back to be stubborn and to go for a clean sheet.


And will it be more of the same this weekend?

It'll be the same approach at Birmingham. We'll be solid and we'll be encouraging the boys to have a nice defensive line. We've been working hard on the defence in training again this week. And we'll be looking to break Birmingham down in the final third like we know we can. We're really looking forward to the game on Saturday because we're very optimistic that we can get a win. The away win will come.

At West Brom we weren't going to allow ourselves get beaten, and even with Boa sent off, that didn't change. We've scored the same amount of goals as Bolton and look where they are in the League. So we've told the defenders that their job is to get clean sheets, and before last Saturday we hadn't seen enough of those. We put a bit of pressure on them, and they responded and they deserve a massive pat on the back, but we'll want more of the same at St Andrews.

How was Boa after the red card?

Absolutely gutted, devastated. But Boa being Boa, he goes in for every challenge. And with the tackle that got him sent off, he went into it as if he hadn't already been booked. But that's Boa - he's so eager to win every ball and if you took that out of his game he'd be half the player he is. So we'd never come down on him for that. We'll keep encouraging him to be as committed as he always is. He's been excellent all season.