• Albion 2 - 1 Fulham, 26.11.2016

    Writing this up, without resorting to the lazy 'game of two halves' cliché is a challenge. One that I'm not going to bother to attempt. This match was exactly that.

    Coming into this contest, it felt (yet another) big moment - yet another test of the Albion's true credentials. Outside doubters are increasingly falling behind the Seagulls' promotion chances - its the die-hard amongst us, with the badges and t-shirts of decades of disappointment, that sometimes struggle to truly believe.

    A hard-earned point at home to a very strong Villa side was no calamity - a pretty good point in fact, but only if three more were to follow. Take just two, or worse still one, from back to back home games, would constitute a definite bump in the road to the promised land. Landing those three was never going to be easy against a Fulham side in excellent away form, and thus it proved.



    In front of another Amex full house, the Cottagers (snigger) had comfortably the better of the opening exchanges - moving better, passing better, committing more to attack - but without creating any clear openings. By contrast, an out-of-sorts Albion actually carved out a couple of decent chances. Jamie Murphy, preferred to Skalak, cut inside and was allowed all the time in the world to shoot - tamely at David Button, and then Glenn Murray, released by the first quality play of the game, stung Button's hands when a low shot might have left him helpless.

    And then, disaster. Not just a goal conceded, but a terrible, terrible goal, on multiple counts. Lewis Dunk rose to head away a cross from the right, but misdirected it, out for an unnecessary corner. The (excellent) Johansen, looked to have sent the resultant set piece too long, beyond the far post. David Stockdale turned to back-peddle across, tripped over Dale Stephens' foot, and was sent flailing to the ground. Shane Duffy, failed to challenge for the ball (thinking it was drifting out?) leaving Kevin McDonald free to nod back towards the goal from a seemingly impossible angle.

    Blaming Stockdale for being tripped would be unfair. By his own high standards though, he'll be disappointed with his attempts to keep out the header - even from his half-prone position. Pro keepers spend hours on 'recovery' - on regaining their feet to make second phase saves. Instead, Steve Sidwell hooked the ball away, but from beyond the line.

    The Albion had no time to dwell on the set-back. Particularly not Stockdale. All Fulham now - the Albion struggling to gain any semblance of control of the game. Twice in five minutes, the Albion defence provided their keeper with opportunities for redemption - first diving full stretch to his right to palm away the unchallenged Ayite's 20 yard strike, then following up with a double-handed block to deny Scott Malone, wide open in the box.

    Half time a welcome respite for a beleaguered Albion - respite of some kind at least, as some harsh words were surely awaiting. Chris Hughton is unfailingly calm and measured in public - for this 15 minutes in the sanctity of the Amex changing rooms, the other side of him might have made an appearance. His opposite number Slavisa Jokanovic would have been dissatisfied too, for his own reasons - his team should have put this game to bed by the interval.

    The White's Serb boss, should surely have told his charges to get back out there, keep the initiative and kill the game? Perhaps he did, and they ignored him? Within five minutes of the restart, Button had been carded for timewasting over a goal kick. Either deliberately or subconsciously, Fulham were sitting back. Poor call.

    One magic moment later, and the Albion were level. A hopeful long free kick from Knockaert, headed into the centre by Dunk. Button took a step out, then stopped. The ball headed half clear to the edge of the area, where Sam Baldock met it on the full - a perfect, devastating volley that rifled past the keeper and into the corner of the net. An explosion of relief in the stands. Now the match can start. Let's do this.

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