Walking to the ground today felt like stepping back in time. No fancy bars, no plush hotels and no megastores. A return to the good old terraces for the first time since Gillingham last season. Not only the ground has not changed since we last turned them over. Their players are still second rate and their fans silent. They should rename the Cottage the Morgue.
Although having to watch their latest load of dross every week would make me silent. Well, almost.
Having said that, we only came away with a point and I am still wondering how. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink hit the bar with one of his blasters after about three minutes and that was a taster of how the first half was going to go. We dominated from start to finish in the first 45. Jimbo himself could (and perhaps should) have had a hat-trick. Zola was denied only by a superb save from Van der Sar and Zenden flicked a shot inches wide which we somehow got a corner for. The goal came just after the half hour when a great through ball from Zola left
Zenden in the clear and he passed to the unmarked Jimmy Floyd who finished well.
Top DJ Diddy (irritating) David Hamilton told us that there was a game between Fulham and Chelsea ladies which we could all stay and watch after the main match. In truth, a number of us were wondering whether Tigana had sent out the wrong side in the first half and we had been playing the girls. They would probably have put up a better effort though and would have been far prettier to watch.
Fulham changed it around at the start of the second half with Hayles coming on for the fairly quiet Bjarne Goldbaek. To be frank though, both sides were as poor as each other by now. Why we seem to lose our way after half time is something we certainly need to address.
Our failure to take our chances cost us dear when a Saha header came back off the post to Hayles who made no mistake in finishing it off. This was only their second clear effort on goal in the first 55 minutes and I cannot remember another one after. Zenden missed a great chance to put us back into the lead when his shot was saved by the feet of Van der Sar. Then the Graham Poll road show came to town.
I personally do not believe that referees have a grudge against sides, but it does make you wonder when you see a performance like the one he put up today. I counted at least five occasions when Chelsea players were brought down from behind, only to see play waved on. Yet Desailly was booked for what seemed to be little more than an awkward challenge. The sending off of Jokanovic though was nothing short of farce.
Joko, who had already been yellow carded earlier in the game, was brought down unfairly from behind. As he fell he grabbed hold of the ball and got up to take the free kick. Poll though, waste of space that he is, had already decided that the challenge from behind was fair and had not whistled. This made it, in the eyes of Poll, a deliberate handball from Joko who was then sent from the field of play. It is doubtful if we will see such a pathetic decision again, until Poll next takes one of our games.
Down to ten men, things then got worse when Jimmy Floyd was clattered. All three subs had been used, but rather than leave us with nine men Jimmy came back on and hobbled through the pain barrier in trying to help the team hold out for the point. You could see that he was in agony, but this effort will serve to make him even more of a god in the eyes of Blues fans. They troubled us no more though and we remain unbeaten after six games.
There were generally good performances all over the park today. Gallas and Terry in particular looked very strong. Petit struggled and Joko was more often than not at least a yard off the pace. It was though good to see the return of Chappie and of Dalla Bona as second half subs. Lampard was clearly missed in the middle of the park. I did not realise until today how important he has become for the team.
A couple of weeks off now – next up the chance to ensure Peter Taylor the sack. That’s if he has not already gone by then. Let’s just hope that Wisey has a stinker and we can finally put three points on the board at home.