Latics 0-0 Fulham
Saturday 17th March 2007

A while back, a nil apiece would have been a thing to behold, they have been something of a rarity since Paul Jewell took over the reins at Latics, however there was little in the way of novelty in Saturday’s game.  Weather wise, it was one of those days that makes sense of watching football in the pub, regardless of the £15 tickets, and matters on the pitch did little to warm those who had turned up.

This was a key fixture for both sides, Latics wanting to continue their good form and Fulham desperate not to get dragged any closer to the relegation places.  Three points either way would have seen the winners sitting fairly pretty at Saturday tea time, unfortunately the approach taken by both sides made it clear this was more of a must-not-lose, rather than must-win fixture.

If we’re going to point fingers, then Fulham would be the slightly more guilty party.  You can only assume that the lack of threat, and endeavour, were deliberate, surely they can’t be that boring a side? 

From Latics’ perspective things got off to a decent start.  Folan’s hustle bustle style may not be too subtle, but it’s enough to cause most of the defences we’ve come across recently problems.  The early promise soon disappeared when the newly adopted Irishman was stretchered off with an ankle injury, after what seemed a nothing collision with a Fulham defender.

From that point on there was plenty of prodding from Latics, without any real threat.  Much of that must go down to Jewell’s decision to replace Folan with a clearly unfit Camara.  This seemed an even more strange choice given that the returning hitman had been joined on the bench by Julius Agahowa.  Only Jewell knows why he made that choice but given the choice of someone who is struggling to run and someone who has missed out on a pre-season (or whatever Julius has missed out on) to play most of the game, I know which I would choose.

I should apologise for the lack of detail in this report, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it back yet.  Maybe I’ll save it for the next time I’m struggling to sleep.  Suffice to say that by the time the game reached half time it was clear that only Latics were in with a chance of winning the game, but that there was little to no chance of that happening.

The only real chance of changing that fell to Camara who was unable to control Valencia’s hard hit shot after the Ecuadorian’s good work put him in a good position in the box.  That was the best chance of the game for either side and in truth this was 90 minutes where both keepers would have been better off bringing a book to read.

The most notable thing about the game was the three returning ‘heroes’.  De Zeeuw got the full 90 and Camara got a good shift in, Scharner made it on for the last ten minutes or so.  It’s a bit much to expect players to make impacts so soon after such long lay offs, and so it proved.  Ary had little to do, but managed well, Camara would have been disappointing if it hadn’t been so clear he was struggling and Scharner had too little time to show us anything other than a lack of match fitness.

Whilst the result (and how we got there) wasn’t necessarily what we were looking for another game without losing and another clean sheet shouldn’t be skriked at.  If nothing else it leaves us on a fairly solid footing as we head into, yet another, two week break.  There’s not much in the way of a break this time though as eight of the team are off on international duty. 

With Baines due to play in the first proper game at the ‘new’ Wembley and Valencia off for a two city break in the States it’s a toss up for who gets the best deal.  Either way everyone at the club will be hoping that all eight return with clean bills of health, the season’s finishing line is approaching, and the last thing we need now is another injury crisis.

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