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Apr 13, 2014

Fulham building belief


The season run in is going to require strong nerves in the stands and cool heads on the pitch. From the cloth-capped pioneers of Victorian times right through to the modern era, Fulham have spent far too many seasons in their long existence it seems just trying to play catch up. A common grumble heard throughout the decades from club supporters is how allegiance to the Whites of SW6 can take years off a man's life. - Report: Fulham 1-0 Norwich City - Report: Magath: Fulham lucky to beat Norwich For reasons I cannot grasp, your average easy-going follower of football's friendliest club has somehow been cast from the Garden of Eden to wander eternally in the wilderness. As the sun beat down on the cursed Saturday, we Fulham fans witnessed another in a long line of games watched with hearts in mouth and hands over eyes. Not that it was any easier for the yeomanry parked up in the away end, although they for the majority did arrive expecting to lose. And true to form, good old Norwich kept to the script of never beating Fulham. But that's not how it looked from a first 45 where David Stockdale pulled off a miraculous save to prevent poor Ricky van Wolfswinkel from ending his goal drought (last and only Norwich goal on day one of the season). The Fulham goal had two more narrow escapes before manager Felix Magath could re-jig his formation to get to grips with the Canaries' five-man midfield, and then from a set-piece the Whites went ahead with what proved to be the match winner. The manager had kept his faith in Hugo Rodallega and for the second week running his strike will be valued in gold bullion should the Whites stay up. Which after a third win in five now seems ever more feasible. Despite being the better footballing side on the day, Norwich are clearly paying for their lack of punch up front. Saturday I was surprised at the lack of intensity from the Canaries in the second half when surely they had to really give it a go? Even the mood of their travelling support struck me as somewhat resigned to their fate. They really are in the mire after this latest surrender. Fulham played poorly yet got the result needed to blast open the relegation issue. It is now all down to the composure shown in the final four games -- of which there was little on display Saturday. Too many men in white showed plenty of heart, but few are playing with their head. Pajtim Kasami is not a 'head up' footballer and I am amazed successive managers continue to keep faith with him. He’s being picked for his bustling approach and eagerness to shoot, but there is no subtlety to his game, no range of passing, tight ball control, running off the ball nor skill factor to unsettle organised defences. This was also an afternoon when Lewis Holtby was not at the races. And with Ashkan Dejagah again not starting, Fulham created few chances with Rodallega too often isolated up front. Thanks heavens then for the ultra-solid goalkeeper David Stockdale and a sterling shift put in by the back four. We give thanks Norwich arrived with an attack more limp than last month's lettuce -- and the moral of the day was, if you don't concede, you can't lose. On to the next hurdle: a derby at White Hart Lane. Spurs are not the finished article this season and allow teams to play. A win may be a tall order, but without the services of Holtby, Magath can go 4-5-1 and perhaps play for a point. That would be a huge plus, as long as they can round out our home fixtures with wins over Hull City and Crystal Palace. And 37 points will be enough. I leave with you with one nagging issue. Surely Dejagah is masking an injury? He came off after 50 minutes at Cardiff five games ago with a muscle strain and has not been risked over 90 minutes since, despite clearly being the in-form player. He is the one Fulham forward who currently gives you what all managers crave: pace and power. Start waving that lucky heather and hope we see him fit for the final four nerve-shredding games. Now where did I leave those worry beads... twitter@fulhamphil