By Morgan Phillips
It is hard to credit that almost 30 years have passed since the Freight Rovers Cup tie between Aldershot and Fulham, which ended in a penalty shoot-out requiring no fewer than 28 spot-kicks.
Even more remarkable was that 23 of the 28 kicks resulted in goals. Fulham’s present squad, for all their merits, could hardly match that accuracy. Cauley Woodrow, Tom Cairney, Sone Aluko and Chris Martin have all missed from the spot this season.
Jonathan Wilson in his highly readable book ‘The Outsider – A History of the Goalkeeper’ (Orion 2012) devotes a whole chapter to the penalty kick or ‘the game of bluff and counterbluff gone through by forward and keeper’.
This has been a painful experience, not just for the participants but also for Fulham supporters in recent days, so when the referee awarded a penalty just before the interval of the Barnsley match (14 January) some people turned away or covered their eyes. The home side had up till then wasted a number of chances while the visitors had looked more threatening on their periodic breaks from defence.
Barnsley keeper Adam Davies may have done some research on Chris Martin. This season the Scot had converted a penalty against Huddersfield with a hard, low shot into left-hand corner, but an almost identical effort in the Rotherham match had been saved by the keeper Lewis Price.
Would Martin employ the same tactic against Davies or – this is where the double bluff comes in – would he do the unexpected? Davis gambled on the latter and dived to the opposite side, only to see the ball roll into the ‘usual’ corner.
Martin’s goal not only put Fulham ahead. It also secured the rehabilitation of a player that in previous weeks the crowd had urged to fly off to Derby: ‘We don’t want him here’. Now they were singing, in mock disbelief: ‘We scored a penalty’.
The only other goal – a superb one – came from Scott Malone, who made an impressive return to the starting line-up. The 2-0 victory lifted Fulham to eighth in the table.
As for the other missed penalties this season, Cauley Woodrow was pulled down in the area by a Sheffield United player but his kick (to the bottom left of course) was saved and Fulham went out of the League Cup 2-1.
Cairney and Aluko had even more cause to be embarrassed because they missed penalties in the Championship match against our nearest neighbours and oldest rivals, Queens Park Rangers. So, instead of drawing or even winning, Fulham again suffered a 2-1 defeat.
There is a return match this Saturday lunchtime at Loftus Road. The Rangers are on a good run so Fulham cannot afford to be generous.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.