Marcus Bettinelli reacts

Trio of draws leave Fulham mid-table

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Marcus Bettinelli’s double save against Huddersfield Town in the first half showed that he was back to his best. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Fulham FC blogger Morgan Phillips
Fulham fan, historian and blogger Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

A month has passed since that stirring performance against Millwall and Scott Parker must be wondering how he can coax his team to another victory. At Hillsborough Fulham lost the lead in the final seconds, resulting in a third consecutive draw.

In a dour and mostly uneventful match there were promising signs including the improved corner kicks. Marcus Bettinelli’s double save in the first half showed that he was back to his best and helped win him the Man of the Match award. The visitors grabbed the lead just before the interval when Joe Bryan, free on the left, sent over a low, bouncing centre which goalkeeper Keiren Westwood only half-cleared. Tom Cairney‘s aim was perfect.

Fulham had little problem in holding the lead throughout the second half and resorted, just as in the two previous matches, to time-wasting with Bettinelli collecting yet another yellow card. Once again the tactic failed to prevent an equaliser. Kadeem Harris’s minute low centre rebounded off Alfie Mawson for substitute Atdhe Nuhiu to score a goal strangely similar to Cairney’s.

The result has left Fulham in mid-table. As the club’s website points out the next few fixtures mostly feature teams in the lower half of the table, so the fans will demand expect better results.

Riverside Stand history

In 1976 when I privately published my supporters’ history ‘Fulham We Love You’ I was surprised by the antagonism of the directors, who banned it from the club shop. Later I learnt from a journalist of rumours that a book was being prepared which would expose both the power struggles and the unconventional financial dealings at Fulham. This could hardly have differed more from my publication so I contacted the club secretary to have the ban withdrawn. Unfortunately the turmoil was such that Fulham appointed three different secretaries in a short space of time so I had to negotiate with each one in turn.

One of them broke off our conversation to lambast an underling who had at a recent match allowed supporters in wheelchairs to obscure advertising signs. If it was meant to impress me it had the reverse result and I wondered what had happened to the happy family club ethos. The other two secretaries were more sympathetic, though understandably neither fancied querying the board’s decision. One of them looked through my book with me and pointed to the photo reproduced here of goalkeeper Peter Mellor celebrating a penalty save. The secretary was not interested in Mellor so much as in the empty rows in the Riverside Stand:

‘That’s what I don’t like to see – and we haven’t paid for it yet.’

Penalty save celebrations in front of empty seats in the Riverside Stand
Goalkeeper Peter Mellor celebrates saving a penalty in front of empty rows of seats in the Riverside Stand

I thought he might be joking but he was deadly serious. Ticket sales were poor except for special periods like George Best’s brief career as a Fulham player. The stand, opened just four years previously, looked increasingly like a white elephant yet would prove hard to replace. The club could not afford any redevelopment and furthermore the land belonged to the Church of England. Fulham were only leaseholders.

One possible solution was to persuade the church authorities to sell the freehold. That would make redevelopment more worthwhile and (as some of us thought) safeguard Fulham’s tenure of Craven Cottage. How misguided we were. More to follow.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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