Houghton on Man City

Friday 4 November 2005

A recurrent theme for Chris this season has been that he has got his team playing some good football but that they're not picking up the points. But against Liverpool it was interesting note - and Chris said as much himself - that they didn't play the best football we've seen from them this season, but they did what they had to do to record a win. And it was a very good win at that.

For Fulham, winning is the priority at the moment. Results breed confidence, they take the pressure off, and at that point you usually find yourself playing better anyway. On the back of the draw at Charlton a few days earlier, the Liverpool win meant four points in six days and it looked like Fulham were about to turn the corner. But unfortunately the trip to Wigan threw a bit of a spanner in the works.

I share the widely held view that some cruel decisions went against Fulham last Saturday afternoon. I don't know how Moritz Volz was booked for diving when he was clearly brought down. And as for the incident with John Filan, the Wigan keeper, okay it might not have been a sending off for the handball but he certainly pulled Collins John down and Fulham should have been awarded a free kick at the very least.

But there was some bad finishing on Fulham's part too, and to a degree Fulham paid the price for not killing Wigan off in the first half. I'm sure the lads would tell you that themselves. Wigan are playing on adrenaline at the moment. And when you're up against sides with nothing to lose, you absolutely have to make the most of your chances. It doesn't matter how much you are dominating a game, but when it's 0-0 and you're not capitalising on your opportunities, there is always the danger that something will go wrong. That's what happened to Fulham on Saturday, and as a consequence everyone came away feeling like it had been a robbery. You can never take a game for granted until its won.

Manchester City are another side, like Wigan, who are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. But Saturday is certainly a winnable game for Fulham. Yes, City have been picking up some decent results. But they're not a team of world beaters by any stretch and Fulham should definitely be looking to win.

The return of Andy Cole will add an interesting dimension to the game. I'm sure he feels that Fulham fans never really saw the best of him and he'll be eager to prove a point on Saturday. But the Fulham boys will know all about his game and it'll be up to them to the respond. One way or the other, I think the Fulham players owe their manager a performance after the defeat at Wigan. Like Liverpool, the overriding priority is to pick up three points on Saturday, however that is done. The Liverpool performance wasn't necessarily the prettiest, but it was effective and Fulham got the result. I think the same approach needs to be taken on Saturday. The longer Fulham stay in the lower end of the table, the more pressure they'll put upon themselves - and that can be the very reason a team starts to struggle. A killer instinct in front of goal, an effective performance, three points and everyone will be able to go into the break in the fixture list the following weekend in a positive frame of mind.

Finally I would like to add my sympathies to the family of Johnny Haynes. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but I've done a lot of work covering Ireland with Johnny Giles and he waxes lyrical about just how good Haynes was. When you think about the balls they used to play with, there aren't many players who could hit a 60 yard pass on to a sixpence like he could. It's a tremendous loss to football and to Fulham. Regardless of your age, if you're a Fulham fan you know about Johnny Haynes and that is the biggest testament to the contribution he made to club.