Better late than never

Fulham 0-1 Latics
Saturday 28th October 2006

Last season, both the games between these sides went the wrong way. Fulham had the better of their defeat at the JJB whilst Steed Malbranque’s goal at Craven Cottage cruelly snatched the points away from a Latics side that had dominated the game. The only injustice yesterday was that only a single goal decided the match. If Paul Jewell’s men had got off to as quick a start as the previous three games then they may even have topped off the four that saw off City last Saturday.

Two of the three changes to Latics’ line up were expected with Webster and Landzaat replacing the injured Hall and Skoko. After his display against Manchester United it was a surprise to see Gary Teale in the starting eleven, as it turned out, Jewell had little choice with Valencia pulling a hamstring during the week. The Scotsman responded well, with one of those performances that hint at why Jewell has kept him at the club.

Landzaat’s return to the starting line up wasn’t quite as pleasing. The midfielder’s performances thus far have not endeared himself to many fans, who are either expecting more of a Dutch international or have got used to the high energy of Jimmy Bullard.

In his defence, Landzaat is playing the holding role occupied by Kav for the majority of last season. Not only is this a position that prevents spectacular performances it is one that the player hasn’t really played in before. Not only is he acclimatising to a new country and a different style of football, he’s learning to play somewhere new as well.

There’s clearly a player in there and the challenge for Paul Jewell is to get it out of him. He looked set for a spell on the sidelines, but following Skoko’s injury that may has not been possible and he has again been thrown into the deep end. In all his confidence must be taking a battering and perhaps it should have come as no surprise to see him miss his first spot kick from thirty attempts, following Zat Knight’s handball on the goal line.

The chances of a breakthrough at that stage looked to be ebbing away and the travelling Latics fans would have been forgiven for thinking that it just wasn’t going to be their day. That the win eventually came was as much down to Fulham’s slack defending as Latics’ endeavour as, under little pressure, the Cottagers backline contrived to allow Camara a one on one chance with Anti Niemi. A goal was by no means certain, the shot was hit too close to the keeper, but the ball squeezed under his body and into the back of the net.

The managers’ post match comments summed the game up nicely; Chris Coleman admitting that his side were well beaten and Jewell bemoaning his side’s lack of clinical finishing. On another day, Latics could have been punished for not taking advantage of their dominance, that they weren’t is hopefully a sign of better things to come.

A first away victory, two wins in two games and consecutive clean sheets are certainly steps in the right direction but we should be wary of treating them as more than that. To be over confident going into a game against Bolton is folly. They will be looking to bounce back from their hammering against Manchester United and Latics need to take care that they don’t become victims of their own success.

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