The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 9 October 2012 14:00

Well it’s been two weeks since I last wrote for and since then we have faced Manchester City and Southampton – two games that have seen goals conceded very late on.

As we know, City took all three points at Craven Cottage with Edin Dzeko scoring in the 87th minute and then on Sunday we saw Southampton’s Jose Fonte head in his second of the game in the 90th.

I actually watched the City match from Chicago, having been out there watching the Ryder Cup, and looking back, I think it was a game the Champions deserved to win really.

Mladen Petrić put us in front after 10 minutes, and from then on, it was always going to be difficult to keep that lead for so long. In many ways, an early goal can work against you – sometimes the team’s natural instinct takes over and what happens then is that you sit back.

It’s totally understandable, I was in similar situations as a player too, and it’s difficult to overcome. Suddenly the emphasis is with City to get a goal, and gradually they started to see more and more of the ball.

With players like David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez on the pitch, any team would have found that a test. Just look at the players Roberto Mancini threw on to change things: Samir Nasri, Mario Balotelli and Dzeko – it just underlined their incredible strength in depth.

I always think it is better to score against the top sides late on, but of course, you take a goal whenever you can get it.

That man Aguero, a player that unfortunately always seems to play well against Fulham, levelled just before half-time, and then as we know Dzeko popped up as the game was drawing to a close and pounced on a moment of uncertainty to punish Martin Jol’s boys.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, because of the timing, but I think City probably deserved it. That said, nevertheless it was a gutting experience.

Moving on from the current Barclays Premier League champions, Fulham made the trip down to the South Coast on Sunday – and although it wasn’t the best game I have ever seen, it was still one that produced four goals.

Unfortunately, the fourth, was another late one conceded for Fulham. It was a disappointing finish, and for me, I think we got a little bullied towards the end.

Southampton took the lead, but after that, I always thought that we looked the most likely to go on and win the game and, until very late on, that looked to be the case after a fortuitous own goal and a first strike for Kieran Richardson.

The boy did well when he came on, and looked really lively. He was popping up all over the show and his positivity was rewarded when he got on to the end of a cross from the right. He looked so happy, I actually thought he was going to cry.

With two minutes left on the clock, my money was on Fulham to see the game through, but with virtually the last throw of the dice, the home side knocked in a deep free-kick and it goes in off Fonte.

I know Southampton hadn’t got too many points on the board prior to this fixture, but I actually think this was a difficult trip for Fulham – and that a point is not to be sniffed at.

Nigel Adkins’ side play some really bright football, especially at St Mary’s, and there will be more than a few teams that come unstuck there as the season progresses. Already they have played both Manchester sides, Arsenal and Everton – so it’s been a difficult start to the campaign for them.

I would have taken a point going into the game, I think it was just the circumstances that soured that thought. Whatever the outcome, you are never happy to concede so late in the game and as a result we saw three points turn into one.

On a side note, I must commend the fans that made the trip, because it looked like they turned out in their numbers, which is fantastic. That support helps the boys so much, and on the road perhaps that could make a difference.

With a lot of the players away now on international duty, it must be a quiet place at Motspur Park this week. It’s tough for Martin Jol and his staff, because I’m sure they would have liked to have had a bit of time with their players this week, but will now have to wait until the middle of next week to get them all together again.

In terms of rhythm and momentum, it must be difficult. But I suppose they are used to it by now.

The thing that strikes me most, is how many of the squad are now involved with their countries right from the First Team down to the Under-21 and Under-18 groups. But that’s a clear sign of how far the Club has come.

The international break can be a frustrating time for fans, if they are like me, they miss the buzz of matchday like nothing else. Working for Sky Sports we could be covering two, three or four games a week if there’s UEFA Champions League football as well, so when that comes to a halt we really feel it.

Hopefully our players can do well though because it would be good to see as many of them as possible lining up at the 2014 World Cup in Rio. Fingers crossed they come back unscathed and ready to go.

Aston Villa are up next, and although I think they, like Southampton, have also been unlucky so far, I think Fulham should be looking at another three points. If they can do that, then 13 points from eight games would do much for another positive campaign.