I thought we might get something tonight; Fulham are on a great run and won 8 at home in a row but felt they were due a dip and we played well last week at Reading. He played the same team bar Donaldson for Clarke but Blackman was fit. Fulham’s side was packed with talent but I was quietly confident we might get something…
For the first 10 minutes we played well. Started game on the front foot and moved it about; they were slow to begin with and Basham had a cross shot and Sharp missed a really good chance. After this they came into it and from minute 10-15 till 95 they dominated most of the game. They had all the ball, created tons of chances and cut us open at will. It was men v boys. They had more pace, invention strength, quality and were just better individually and collectively. The lad Ojo skinned Stevens a few times and he finally got booked; we still gave Stevens no cover and eventually they got down that wing and scored with Mitrovic getting away from O’Connell I think it was in the box. They then had a few more chances and we started to really struggle for a period but had another few efforts.
Donaldson then had a decent chance and Fleck forced a save but then a decent chipped ball and Mitrovic converted very well again with no challenge. It was 2-0 and effectively game over. You could say they scored 2 chances and we missed 2 but, on the ball, there quality even at this point was miles better than ours. After this it seemed just about how many they might get. They pinged it about and the oles started. Maybe we did sit off but not sure we could get close to them. Players moved all over the field and no one was in a set position. We think Baldock and Stevens are quite mobile but Fredericks and Sessegnon are a different level and we have no one like Ojo at the club. The Mitrovic v Donaldson comparison shows the difference – a 15 million pound player (not good enough for the Prem so that shows the jump up) versus a Birmingham reserve signed for next to nothing. It is a different standard of player.
After the break they continued to dominate although Brooks did have one chance but they had a number and Blackman made some good saves. I felt they barely got out of first gear and the third made by the impressive Sessengon and finished by another superb player in Cairney was a great goal. It maybe was too easy but they made it like that all night. After this they kind of declared but still missed a number of other chances. Evans and Holmes came on but the game was up and our players looked a sorry mob by full time as they basically took the Michael for long stretches. I think many of the United players lacked any kind of belief tonight after they went behind. Worrying but when you know players are better what do you do? Maybe some should have booted a few earlier but Stroud was clearly going to keep booking ours so the go in hard approach would have just seen us with 8 or 9 men.
United – Discussed most of it above but now down to 9th and taken three pastings at Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham. We have not been close to these three in these games – granted we did well v Wolves at the Lane. We may still have a chance of the playoffs and Saturday is a big game but we are not putting a run together at all – it is win one, lose one, or win two, lose two and has been like that since Xmas really. We have lost 4 out of 7. We are putting in mid table type performances and getting mid table type results. Most of the top teams are winning and the top 4 have pulled away now.
There are 2 places to go at but when I see us get beat so easily tonight and our record versus the top 8 has been really poor. We have won a few but lost a lot more and not sure we quite believe we are good enough to be with these teams – even when we played well (Bristol and Villa at home – they had that extra quality to win). The reality is that we may not be quite good enough. We sure need more investment and it worries me that Wilder may just say sod it and leave if he does not get it or the boardroom wrangling is not sorted. I am not sure we can go much higher than this with the team we have.
Tonight, I cannot slam them too much. Sure, we gave them too much respect, missed a few chances and also gave away some sloppy goals but the wider picture is they are a better team with better players with a better pedigree. Too much will be made of personnel, formation and what they did versus what we did. They passed it quicker, kept it better and moved it around us very well. They looked like a team that knows everyone can be comfortable all over the field and everyone is forward thinking. They all showed that man for man they are just that much better than us. That is fact. No different starting eleven or tactical change would have made any real difference. They just passed it well, moved it well and looked superior.
Without that extra step, up in class we will always be a team of triers with some decent players (did not show it tonight) but a lot of club man type (Donaldson, Basham, Stearman) that are not really top 6 material. We have overachieved and the start was fantastic but the form since November has been mid table form and if we carry on we will finish about where we are. We do not play any more of the top 6 away but as I say need a run of say 3 or 4 wins on the bounce. That is not happening at the moment. It is too stop start in terms of performances and results.