We’ve played three games since my last column, the first of which saw us get the win against Everton that I predicted! To be honest, though, Everton were the best side I’ve seen at Craven Cottage this season. Obviously Arsenal played well when they beat us but I was really, really impressed with Everton and I thought it was more a case of them being really good rather than us being really bad in the first half. The team showed a lot of character to come back and win that game and obviously you hoped that was the turning point and that we’d push on, but then we had the disappointment of the Cardiff City match.
You get a good win and you think you can kick on from that but Cardiff started the game well and then scored from a corner which is possibly the worst type of goal to concede. Obviously the coaches set you out to be solid when defending set-pieces so nobody likes it when you concede from corners. We allowed a few free headers in the box and I thought we were quite lucky to come in at half-time 1-1, and then it just didn’t seem to click in the second half. It was a bit of a lacklustre performance - just one of those days where you’re not playing well and it looks like you have to settle for a point, but then they scored that great goal in the final minutes, which was unstoppable really from the goalkeeper’s point of view. I think it was just one of those games where you’re not playing well and you try to get something out of it, but unfortunately we didn’t.
That made last Saturday’s match against Stoke City all the more important and I think you have to give the players credit again for the character they demonstrated. To be fair to Stoke, they’re a different side to the one we’ve been used to seeing for so many years. We were far from at our best but this was always a game that was going to be more about the result than the performance. I was in the lounges on Saturday and I spoke to quite a lot of Fulham fans who have been coming over the years and before the game we were all agreeing that we don’t care how we play, as long as we get the result.
It looked as though we were heading for another draw, but then Darren Bent showed why he’s so dangerous. There was a lot of pressure on the players in the Stoke game and it could have gone either way but when you’ve got players like Darren on the bench who can come on and score a goal to win you the game then you’ve always got a chance. It was obviously good for him as well and what you can say about Darren Bent is he’ll always score goals, no matter what, and hopefully he’s capable of getting 15-20 for us this season.
It’s also nice that we go into the international break on the back of a win. If you lose your last match before the break then it’s a long couple of weeks. If you win then it’s more enjoyable and it’s a more relaxed atmosphere. I was always one of the players that never really joined up with the international squad so I know what it’s like to be at Motspur Park when everyone else is abroad! I don’t know how many players are going to go away and how many Martin Jol has got to work with this week, but hopefully they can iron out a few things.
We’ve got Crystal Palace away next and that’s another big game. I watched their home game when they won against Sunderland and I thought they played really well on the day. But this will be a game that Palace have pinpointed as one that they can win. Obviously you go into each game hoping to win, but this is a six-pointer for them because we’re not in the top half at the moment. They showed a lot of character in the game against Liverpool when they were 3-0 down at half-time; they won the second half 1-0 and I know that’s no consolation because they didn’t get any points from it, but they will have taken a lot from that. Ian Holloway demands a lot out of his players and it will be a very tough game. Our away form’s not too bad – we beat Sunderland and we were unlucky at Newcastle United, so I think we can build on that and I can see us coming away from Selhurst Park with three points. I remember going there back in 2001 when we won 2-0 so hopefully it will be the same sort of result.