I must be our lucky charm because the Stoke City game was the first Fulham match I’ve worked this season! So anyone who reads this will be pleased to know that I’m also commentating on the Fulham-Swansea City game, as well as doing Fulham-Manchester United. Now that Man United game will be a tall order for a lucky charm but I’ll do my best!
Thinking back to our last match and I’m sure we’ll all agree that Stoke was a huge three points. I’ve got to say it wasn’t the best of matches and it wasn’t the best of performances but at this particular time it was massive for the confidence of the boys and obviously eased the tension of a very nervous crowd. I must admit, I got a little bit carried away doing the commentary for Sky seeing as it was my old club. Everybody knew the importance of the fixture and Darren Bent took the winner so well. To come on as a substitute in a game like that and show two really good touches on the ball just to clear his feet and reverse it around the keeper was excellent.
I thought the result was so important, particularly because it was coming up to the international break as well. If they’d have lost that or drawn that then the pressure would have been on Martin Jol a little bit, and the players even more. I’m not saying that they can head into the Crystal Palace game relaxed, though, because that’ll be a tough game. Palace have to target the games like this, particularly at home, if they’re to have any hope of survival. I went and did the live commentary from their match against Southampton and I must admit that I think it’s going to be a struggle for them this season.
It’s important how you start the game, and if Fulham can move the ball nice and quick next Monday then that’s when we’re at our best. Obviously the Palace fans will be right up for it; they’ve been excellent so far in every game. They’re treating every one as if it’s their last at the moment. They’re really behind their side and they’ve been the most vociferous, I think, of all the supporters I’ve seen this season. We just need to make sure we play to our strengths, because there’s a lot of quality in our squad.
We’ve got another away game after the match at Selhurst Park, and it’ll be another difficult test because Southampton are a good side. I’ve seen them twice this season – against Crystal Palace and against Sunderland – and they move the ball as well as any team. I think Mauricio Pochettino has proven to be an excellent acquisition. Although, at the time, the chairman Nicola Cortese got some stick when he replaced Nigel Adkins with Pochettino, it’s proven to be inspired. Their midfield three really press after the ball so if Fulham try and play out from the back, they need to be wary that Southampton nick a lot of balls. So what Fulham have to do, in the build-up to that game once we’ve got the Palace fixture out the way, is to work out how you beat that first press. If you can get past their first press then you really are into their back four which, because they defend a high line, they can sometimes leave exposed. Beat the first press and I think we’ve got an excellent chance.