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Mar 16, 2014

Dejagah da man!


Fulham want to toy with the supporters' emotions for a while longer after this narrow but so important win. Newcastle United obligingly turned up with only half a team Saturday and duly rolled over to give the home fans their first taste of three points since New Year's Day. Crikey, but that West Ham result feels like an age ago. - Report: Fulham 1-0 Newcastle - Report: Magath: Win boosts Fulham's chances That day you would have marked the Hammers down as the more likely relegation candidates. Little did we know Fulham were about to descend into darkness while Sam Allardyce's boys, despite no significant activity in the transfer window, concentrated on defence and captured the art of grinding out points. Through midwinter the popular and now ex-manager Rene Meulensteen somehow allowed his shot at the big time to run through his fingers like sand. It still puzzles me how things unravelled so quickly. I am also burning up to know to what extent the parachuting in of Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins muddied the waters. Judged purely on performances from that period, something went seriously wrong behind the scenes at Fulham Football Club. Meulensteen himself has some explaining to do if and when he thinks the time is right. Having seen off Norwich City in the FA Cup 3rd round, the Whites put in two truly gruesome efforts against third-tier team Sheffield United. Look at the sides who are in the semi-finals and you will see how Fulham passed up a golden opportunity to make it to Wembley in 2014. If Meulensteen ultimately was responsible for team selection, and presumably motivating the players, I can only surmise certain members from both the players and back room staff looked to the chairman's intentions in the transfer window and threw in the towel, knowing their days were numbered. Was Meulensteen stabbed in the back? Why did the board not back him and go after Ravel Morrison -- the first name on his shopping list? The kid is playing out of his skin for QPR, scoring and drawing rave reviews. Or was Meulensteen the architect of his own downfall, concentrating overly perhaps on offence while at the back Fulham shipped goals for fun? Why has nobody from the club hierarchy seen fit to recall Marcello Trotta? Whatever reasons may emerge from the turmoil of the past dozen games, this black period in Fulham history has brought the club to the brink. It still makes no sense to me to discard Meulensteen after two really battling performances against Manchester United and Liverpool, while entrusting him with a hefty wedge of the chairman's millions on six new faces. It has left new manager Felix Magath feverishly rotating the numbers at the sharp end of the season in a quest to come up with a winning combination. Well, at the fourth time of asking he manages it, so congratulations for that. But my goodness did Newcastle make it easy for him. What has gone wrong with Papiss Demba Cisse? How on earth is that team in the top 10? It took some distinctly average goalkeeping from Newcastle's Tim Krul for Fulham to post only their fourth home win of the season, although it would have been harsh had Magath's men not emerged from a mediocre encounter the victors. The Magpies offered little apart from down the right flank, while the recalled David Stockdale made two decent saves and calmly pouched every aimless ball that came his way in the box. Proof, as this blogger maintained from the outset, that resources splashed on Maarten Stekelenburg could and should have been spent more wisely elsewhere. Among five changes made by the manager after last week's morale sapping loss to Cardiff, Magath stuck out three centre halves -- and somehow got away with fielding Fernando Amorebieta, bizarrely pushing Lewis Holtby out to the left-wing (is he the new Bryan Ruiz, Felix?) and again throwing Cauley Woodrow into the fray up front on his own. His luck held against the feeble Magpies, deprived of their top scorer. It won't work next week at Man City. Enough carping. It's a Fulham win for heaven's sake so let's wallow in the moment. From somewhere our German taskmaster conjured a team performance. Only William Kvist was really off the pace; the full-backs were solid and John Heitinga was a millimetre away from claiming another goal in the white shirt. Woodrow can take heart from a really grafting performance that promised there's more to come. Even Alexander Kacaniklic was beginning to liven up at times, but with Kostas Mitroglou not passed fit and Magath clearly deciding he's seem more than enough of the lumbering Darren Bent, well, we didn't have much ammo to fire from the bench had it all gone wrong. But it did not. The disallowed 'goals' were not to matter. The Whites live to fight another day. Recall my preview that suggested six points this week for my team? It's still on! And Magath has another week to find out who down at Motspur Park still has fire in the belly. COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil