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Lessons from Craven Cottage

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I didn''t manage to get to the game, but from what others have said some conclusions can be drawn.

1) I had assumed that having conceded two goals we then pressed to score and conceded the remainder "on the break", but having read some reports it seems that we played generally very poorly. This despite all the preparations done during the week. Some were nervous despite the best efforts of sports psychologist and manager, while other supporters have suggested that Francis did not seem to care. Is he de-mob happy, or has he been more damaged by the facial injury than we realised?

2) The midfield were invisible, especially after Safri had to go off. We have still not learned how to use Huckerby. He is so productive in attack, but as a wide midfielder he leaves Drury exposed. Bentley is missing defensively almost as much. Against teams with strong midfields, like Fulham, it is no contest. Holt is anonymous, Francis subdued and the wide men contribute little defensively. Whatever their personal futures, it is clear that to do well in the Championship we shall have to invest in two or three good midfielders.

3) The continued presence of Fleming is worrying. You can count the number of good games he has had on the finger of one hand, and several of the gaols given away this season have been from his mistakes and misjudgements. This is a question of the manager''s approach.

4) I acknowledge that we have some good strikers, though apart from Ashton none are scoring at a rate to make them more than adequate at Premiership level. They have squandered some good chances recently. At Craven Cottage did they trouble the Fulham goalkeper at all? It may be that the poor quality of approach play gave them poor service. But I have lost count of the number of goals scored against us this season from the edge of the penalty area or outside it. Apart from those by Francis and Safri, both midfielders, how many have we scored in this way?

My conclusion is that we have quality enough to survive in the Championship, if most of the better players stay on, but without an influx of several good players and a change in managerial tactics, team selection and motivation I think that automatic promotion is beyond us and even a play-off place will be a major challenge. In our recent mini revival we needed goal-shy ManU and Brum strikers, or our true skill and commitment level might have been obvious much earlier.

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