Fulham v West Ham
The flurry of festive fixtures continues this weekend as West Ham prepare for a second successive London derby when they make the journey across the capital to face bottom of the league Fulham. For me, it’s a fourth away day of the season as I make the same journey.
West Ham come into this game having secured three wins in a row for the first time in almost two years, scoring 3 goals in each of them. Whereas it will be the fifth game and third at home for new Fulham manager and Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri, whose side were on the receiving end of a 4-1 drumming against Manchester United last weekend.
This is a game West Ham should win. The style of attacking play on show from the East London side coming up against a Fulham team that have conceded 40 goals in 16 games, the most in the league, it just has to be a West Ham win. That said, nothing can be a certainty in the Premier League and knowing West Ham as well as I do, I wouldn’t rule out a cagey affair which ends in disappointment.
West Ham proved against Crystal Palace that they can cope without Marko Arnautovic during his month long spell on the sideline. The strength in depth that West Ham have in that area of the field have been taking their chances, with Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez bagging five goals between them. As well as Andy Carroll proving to be an inspired halftime substitute against Palace, despite failing to score he caused their defence a world of problems, such as winning the free-kick which ultimately resulted in West Ham’s second.
Fulham’s problems are simple, defensively they are shocking and lack the quality in the middle of the field to turn defence into attack. Despite the ability to score goals, Aleksandar Mitrovic for one loves a goal against West Ham, scoring a handful against them during his time at Newcastle.
Momentum will be high in the West Ham camp and Pellegrini will be looking for his side to carry that on, whereas Fulham will be desperately low on confidence and will have forgot what a clean sheet feels like.
Fulham have scored in eight of the 16 Premier League games this season and I expect them to find the back of the net here, despite West Ham being desperately unlucky to concede in the dying seconds against Cardiff as well as the two goals conceded against Palace being avoidable, I think Fulham have the attacking power that could put a goal past West Ham.
With current form, positioning in the table as well as my natural bias as a West Ham fan i’m going to go for a West Ham win. Fulham 1-3 West Ham.
FT Fulham 0-2 West Ham
I have been to Fulham’s Craven Cottage a couple of times before, once for a West Ham game in which the Cottagers came out on top and an FA cup game between Fulham and Tottenham in which a Harry Kane hat trick put Tottenham’s name in the hat for the next round.
This game marked the first time in which I walked from my home to one of the games, after two hours of walking five miles along the River Thames and through Chelsea I arrived at Craven Cottage with an open mind and ready for a game of football.
I wasn’t really feeling any sort of nerves ahead of the game, I think the walk may have helped, but I wouldn’t say I was feeling particularly confident either. It felt like I was about to watch a game from the neutral perspective, which obviously wasn’t the case, it was just a very bizarre feeling ahead of kick off and one I couldn’t quite define. Nonetheless, once I found my way to my seat the teams were out and I was ready for some Saturday evening football.
West Ham were 12th at the start of the game whereas Fulham were rooted to the foot of the table and without a clean sheet all season, pundits and football fans were expecting this game to be one way traffic. It wasn’t.
Fulham actually started the game on the front foot and should have gone 1-0 up after Aboubakar Kamara was through one on one but had a tame effort saved by Fabianski.
At this point I was feeling a bit frustrated, it felt like our momentum wasn’t there from the previous three games and we were there for the taking. You could very much see Fulham getting an early goal and sitting back.
17 minutes – Goal! Fulham 0 – 1 West Ham – Robert Snodgrass
Against the run of play but who cares! The Scotsman scores his second goal in as many games from outside the box.
The away crowd was bouncing, my heart rate was somewhat relieved as I really thought the circumstances of this goal will have knocked the stuffing out of Fulham.
What followed was some extremely festive chants from the away crowd as the game carried on and despite how cold I was it felt like I was at a West Ham fans Christmas party, I was having the time of my life.
29 minutes – Goal! Fulham 0-2 West Ham – Michail Antonio
If ever a goal could summarise Fulham’s defensive woes, this was it. An unmarked Michail Antonio received the ball from a Chicharito flick on and he couldn’t miss.
As West Ham doubled their lead the emotional response also doubled in the positive sense. There were no anxieties in my body at this point and it was just a fun game to be in the crowd for, the only thing I could moan about was the weather.
West Ham were winning 0-2 at the break and so far it was a very professional performance. Fulham had more chances and certainly should have taken the lead, however, West Ham, with fewer chances took two of them and were comfortably winning the game because of it.
Half time emotions were pretty mute to be honest. The entire turnstile area where the bars are situated at Craven Cottage are outside so any attempt to get warm did not work. I could let that slide because West Ham were winning and I was having fun and feeling very christmassy at a Craven Cottage that was playing Christmas music during the interval.
Although a game is never won until the final whistle I did think it would be a long way back for Fulham at this point so I was excited for a very easy watching second half of football.
There weren’t many big talking points in the second half. The defensive display from West Ham was doing its job, with Balbuena and Diop combining wonderfully to keep Fulham top goal scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic out.
Fulham’s bid to get back into the game by throwing men forward very much suited West Ham’s counter attacking style of play.
My only wish for the remainder of the game was for West Ham to get a third. If Fulham were to get one goal back they would have got a shift in momentum and could potentially draw the game level, whereas if West Ham got a third it would have well and truly been game over.
If Fulham were to get one goal back that would have been the start of a rise in anxiety within me for the remainder of the game as I thought Fulham could turn the game on its head.
Fortunately that never came and West Ham won the game 0-2.
Four wins in a row. Wow.
I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time West Ham won four games on the spin, and it’s a feeling I don’t want to slip anytime soon.
At times West Ham played some scintillating stuff, took their chances and played an all round professional display. It wasn’t the perfect performance but it was enough to keep the momentum going.
For me personally that was one of the most fun away crowds i’ve been in. The last away day I went to around Christmas time was a 0-1 loss away at Arsenal in the cup.
To be winning 0-2 at half time against a bottom of the league side took the stress out of things meaning the crowd could have what I can best describe as a Christmas party and I have been on cloud nine ever since.
Up next for West Ham is a home game against Watford in six days time which is also the last game I will be going to in 2018. It won’t be an easy fixture but with a potential fifth win in as many games up for grabs, i’m very much looking forward to it!