With a host of new arrivals landing at the Cottage on the final day of the summer transfer window, the Whites needed to adjust quickly and we saw six points gained in September to keep us stable in eighth place in the Barclays Premier League table.
Unfortunately, things did not go too well in our first game of the month as it saw a disappointing 3-0 defeat at West Ham United’s Upton Park. All the goals came in the first half and the opener was inside 60 seconds, but at least we were able to introduce new-boy Dimitar Berbatov to the side as a half-time substitute.
A break of two weeks was just what the doctor ordered to get us out of a three-game losing slump and the visit of West Bromwich Albion ensured we came away with our own 3-0 win; Berbatov getting on the scoresheet twice and Peter Odemwingie being sent off for the Baggies. Then it was time to show some consistency as Martin Jol named the same XI from the previous week and the Whites beat Wigan Athletic 2-1 at the DW Stadium, with Hugo Rodallega netting against his old side.
Things looked like they might get even better when Mladen Petrić’s penalty put us 1-0 up at home to Manchester City the following weekend, but the champions battled back and broke our hearts in the 87th minute as substitute Edin Dzeko stole the win. Still, we began the month in eighth and finished it there, so all-in-all not bad.
Despite having more shots on target and more possession, we were blitzed by the Hammers in a first-half performance that saw Kevin Nolan give them the lead after just 53 seconds. Andy Carroll made his physical presence known to get his head on a long ball upfield and Nolan arrived in the box to smash home Ricardo Vaz Te’s cross. Good chances for both sides then saw the hosts increase their lead in the 29th minute as Winston Reid headed home a corner from Matt Taylor. Before half-time, Taylor had made it three as he pounced to lash home after Carroll had caused problems in the box from a free-kick. Berbatov arrived at half-time, but Finland goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was in inspired form to keep us from getting back into the game.
A two week break from football recharged the batteries and we were back with a bang at the Cottage as we beat the Baggies in style. Berbatov opened his account for his new Club and slid a wonderful curled effort into the net after good work from Alexander Kačaniklić down the flank to open up space in the 31st minute. Peter Odemwingie then made the task a little easier as he inexplicably kicked out at Sascha Riether to earn himself a red card before half-time, and the combo of Kačaniklić/Berbatov worked again in injury-time as the Swede was brought down in the box for the Bulgarian to net from the spot. Against 10-men, we controlled the game and, after a concerted spell of pressure, it was something of a surprise that we only scored one more through Steve Sidwell in the 89th minute.
Keeping the faith with the same XI that dispatched of West Brom, Manager Martin Jol got the best out of his side for the second week in a row and picked up the Club’s first win on the road. Hugo Rodallega kept his place against his old side up front and was rewarded with a goal when Berbatov’s inch-perfect cross found the Colombian’s head in the 31st minute. After some important interventions from goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Rodallega continued to cause the Latics issues and he burst free to find Bryan Ruiz, who cut the ball to Damien Duff for his third goal of the season in the 68th minute. It was a nervy final few minutes after Arouna Kone had got one back, but we held on to record a valuable win on the road and ensure that we would go into our clash with champions Manchester City full of confidence.
A home clash with Manchester City was never going to be easy, but the Whites excelled themselves in the opening exchanges and went ahead in the 10th minute as Chris Baird spread the play out to John Arne Riise on the left, the Norwegian cut inside and forced Pablo Zabaleta into a foul just inside the box. With the injured Berbatov out of the side, Petrić stepped up to slam the penalty home and net his third goal of the campaign. But our lead did not last until half-time; Sergio Aguero pouncing on Schwarzer’s save from a deflected shot to stab in from five yards. The second half saw chances for both sides, but it was City who struck a cruel blow with four minutes remaining as substitute Edin Dzeko volleyed the winner (seconds after making his arrival) after a defensive horror show. The Whites had battled hard, but stayed where they began the season – in eighth place – at the end of the month.