Thursday night lights

Town’s dogged victory at Charlton and second half stroll against a poor Bolton side saw them take the field with an unfamiliar surge of confidence; the rebuilt team, boosted by some smart loan signings and the blossoming of some of the summer ones is rapidly erasing the memories of a terrible pre season and a forgettable, if not altogether disastrous, early winless run.

Losing Butterfield has forced a change in style and the squad has adapted very well, which is no mean feat in itself, with more emphasis on wing play allied to perhaps a little too much reliance on Miller’s muscular presence which is too often executed clumsily. However, the excellent Whitehead now protects a far less vulnerable back four which has been boosted by the form of Cranie and increasingly harmonious centre half pairings.

Nottingham Forest have also had their problems. An apparently unstoppable start to last season withered as the pump fisting management of Stuart Pearce disintegrated in to an almost unfathomable mess given the money spent (a lot by his predecessor, to be fair to old Psycho) and a combination of long term injuries and FFP penalties suggested an unfamiliar season of struggle for them.

The enforced penury (though to put in to context, one of the penalties was that they can’t pay more than “only” £10,000 per week for loan players) seems to have worked oppositely to what was intended as Dougie Freeman has made some shrewd signings and marshalled his supposedly inferior squad in to an effective and dangerous unit. Following two away wins, Forest were the better team in their defeat at home to Middlesbrough and, once more, it seems that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.

This augurs well for Town’s self imposed financial constraints – we all get excited at the prospect of expensive players coming in to transform our fortunes, but this often proves illusory. It is the moulding of a team which should excite, and we do seem to be on the right track even if our attacking threat is a little limited at the moment.

Watching football on a Thursday to accommodate a television company is far from ideal, but it’s unlikely to be repeated until we force our way in to the Europa League so the best thing to do was embrace it and rejoice that there will be only one work day to go until the weekend rather than the usual 3 following a midweek game.

Town started much the brighter of the two teams with good spells of possession and a desire to take the game to their once illustrious opponents. For the first 20 minutes, Scannell and, especially, Carayol, were prominent and threatening – one mazy run from the former took him in to the area only for him to fail to deliver at the right time, while the Boro loanee worried Lichaj in to an early booking.

A few corners were forced and some decent passing witnessed, but Forest’s defence was solid and strong and a goal looked a little unlikely.

For their part, Forest were restricted to playing high balls up to O’Grady and presented little threat, until they forced Town in to conceding a rather unnecessary throw in on the left as Cranie – who was otherwise excellent and later a hero – opted for safety first rather than getting the ball back to Steer.

Whitehead couldn’t prevent a cross which looked over hit and would have been dealt with had Carayol tracked back properly with Lichaj, whose clever header found the otherwise quiet Mendes to fire home to round off the visitors’ first attack of any substance.

As much as the goal was against the run of play, it also exposed, in quick succession, slight but crucial lack of familiarity between team mates. While Cranie can’t really be faulted for opting for safety, there was a lack of confidence to pass back to the keeper which will perhaps be more natural when the team is fully bedded in. Carayol’s failure was less forgivable and also marked the point in the game where he lost his effectiveness.

Rocked by the goal, which was a little cruel, Town faded and resorted to too many heaves forward towards Miller, who found Forest’s central defenders far more resolute than Bolton’s and beside a presentable chance for Ward from a corner which he mistimed, Town finished the half quite poorly, lacking the cohesion they had before the opening goal.

Special mention should go to Forest’s summer signing from Derby who, in football parlance, can only be described as a “niggly bastard”. In a short spell in the first half, he incurred the wrath of Town fans on the Kilner Bank side with antics which, remarkably, didn’t earn him a booking. He was to repeat his offences (delaying throw ins, annoying fouls and generally being a lot of a knob) in the second half in return for one mild rebuke from the referee.

The second half saw Forest, rather surprisingly given the obvious quality in their team, happy to concede possession and territory to Town. They had clearly decided that their impressive defence would hold firm confronting the home side’s rather ineffective front 3, and there was some merit to their thinking.

At the heart of the visitors’ defence, Wilson was outstanding and ably assisted at his side by his central defensive partner and the classy Mancienne in front of them.

They were a little less secure down the sides and a Scannell run picked out Bunn to fire in a shot that Wilson deflected over for a corner.

That chance was a rarity, however, with Town impressing in build up only for attacks to wither against Forest’s defensive rock.

Half way through the second period, Powell replaced the increasingly ineffective Carayol – he rarely used his pace or found enough space to threaten – with Wells to give the lively Bunn a role on the left and, presumably, in the hope that the Bermudian could rediscover his scoring boots.

Despite the change, the pattern of the game continued and an equaliser still looked unlikely, with the added and ominous spectre of a Forest breakaway starting to rise.

The visitors had been restricted to one rather tame effort from O’Grady and seemed not unreasonably confident of completing a classic away win as Town’s attacks continued to promise but fizzle out.

The annoying Ward was replaced by a frequent nemesis, Chris Burke, and as another attack broke down, the ex-Birmingham winger sprang the offside trap to hare towards goal. Steer started to come but realised he was in a Boycottesque corridor of uncertainty and retreated. Burke, who could have passed inside to the better placed O’Grady, opted to try to curl the ball past Steer but only managed to hit the post. The rebound fell invitingly to O’Grady who smashed a shot goalwards only to see it kneed off the line by Cranie.

The full back, mysteriously overlooked in the first six games in favour of Smith, capped another composed display with his heroics and denied Forest what would have been a game ending 2nd.

With the game reverting to type after the scare, Town still looked unlikely to grab a deserved equaliser but resumed their pressure.

When it came, the leveller was somewhat out of the blue. Huws, who had a quiet but effective game in a slightly withdrawn position from that he adopted against Bolton, ghosted past a defender and tried his luck from distance. Catching the ball perfectly, the shot appeared to be arrowing in anyway but took a deflection from a defender and just crossed the line off the bar.

With 4 goals in 3 games now, the classy if subdued midfielder is covering the weaknesses of our front line and proving to be a very shrewd addition following Butterfield’s departure – when he is fully recovered from his long injury lay off, we can look forward to increasingly effective contributions (until someone buys him from Wigan in January. Hopefully us)

Switching to offensive mode, Forest won a cheap free kick on the edge of the area immediately following the restart but Lansbury wasted the last real opportunity of the game with a wild attempt.

While 3 wins in a row continues to prove elusive, this was a hard earned and deserved point against a very strong Forest who look likely to be challenging at the top end of the table if they resist the urge to go mad once FFP restrictions are lifted in January.

For Town, a much improved defence and a Whitehead inspired re galvanised midfield has elevated us back to competitiveness.

The ability to score however, notwithstanding the brushing aside of a weak Bolton side on Saturday, remains a problem. Miller offers presence and awkwardness but neither genuine quality or goals, and in an ideal world we would be turning to him later in games to try something different rather than him being the focal point throughout.

Carayol is clearly going to frustrate us. His pace and ability has been seen but far too inconsistently – again, a player coming back from a long lay off should be given time and extended patience but of all the new arrivals, he is the one who hasn’t quite integrated, particularly defensively.

Having said all that, even a narrow defeat wouldn’t have obscured encouraging progress. We were defensively solid, Whitehead continues to defy the naysayers with consummate performances, Cranie has added experience and composure and Bunn appears to be recapturing last season’s early form.

Our mid table spot appears eminently achievable and, if we can hold on to Huws and strengthen or improve up front, we may even start to dream a little higher.

Transformation. Town 4 – 1 Bolton

Today’s pre match little known fact was that, scarcely believably, Town hadn’t won a Saturday home fixture since January (against Watford and courtesy of our old friend Mr Daniel Gee).

It would be useful if Danny could dig out the last time we won a home game on Thursday in advance of the horribly annoying slightly later than midweek game against Forest.

Following the relief of a hard fought midweek win in the capital, Bolton Wanderers looked an eminently winnable fixture given the struggles of the Lancastrians against enormous debts and Lennon’s severely restricted funding. However, The Trotters have had a reasonable start to the season and, in particular, they have proved difficult to score against.

Powell’s unchanged team (though Hogg replaced Billings on the bench) needed to carry forward the confidence gained from their first win of the season to achieve what has been very elusive in our Championship seasons – back to back wins.

Not for the first time this season, a somnolent start was punished as a high cross field ball caught Davidson not only out of position but staring at its trajectory like a frightened foal. Whether the troublesome sun, which affected both sides throughout in our wrong way round stadium, unsighted the Australian or he simply judged it badly, it was taken down well and instantly by Feeney who had the easy task of advancing untroubled before beating Steer to give the visitors a gift of a lead.

The sense of “same old Town” was palpable – and it wasn’t to lift as Town spent the first 20 minutes creating no threat, conceding possession and allowing Bolton to dominate possession. In particular, movement was non existent, leaving players in possession with few options, and these were invariably bad ones.

Ponderous Town were lucky in those early stages as Bolton conjured up 2 or 3 presentable chances, with one being cleared off the line and shots flying narrowly wide. A second would have wounded the home team badly and made it difficult to turn the tide.

From about the 20 minute mark – and after the withdrawal of the injured Heskey – Town finally found their missing energy and started to curtail their opponents easy passage through the game by the simple method of closing them down , moving the ball more quickly and matching Whitehead and Miller’s eager desire.

An equaliser nearly came when Prince, who had a terrible day, sliced a clearance on to the bar and, at last, we began to resemble the team who had secured that overdue midweek win without ever looking particularly threatening; though Scannell headed across goal towards Miller who, inexplicably, didn’t attack the ball for what could have been an easy score.

The match turned in first half injury time, all one minute of it. Town won a corner, which Bunn shaped to cross only to find Huws 25 yards out to fire in past a defender and keeper to level.

It was pretty hard on Bolton who had rarely been troubled by a stuttering home team and, arguably, should have been more than one up, but Town’s loanee had picked the perfect time to add to his strike at Charlton.

As the 2nd half kicked off, the visitors were down to ten men as Prince had nipped off the pitch just before the restart and hadn’t yet returned. Illness was cited by Lennon later, which may or may not have been a euphemism – whatever the reason, it was just the beginning of a chaotic performance by him and his team mates in the second period.

From the start, Town rattled the Trotters’ back four.

Carayol, who had been, to put it kindly, enigmatic in the first half, stripped the left back bare before putting in an inch perfect cross for a diving Huws to head inches wide from close range.

Just a few minutes later, the Middlesbrough loanee put Town ahead when he cut in from the left after being fed by Huws and curled an excellent finish past Amos.

Miller, who had troubled the opposing centre halves for much of the first period but to little effect with his team mates either too far away or too slow to capitalise, tormented them again and tempted Derik in to another foul which finally earned him a booking.

Bunn had 2 attempts – one saved and one just wide – before Miller fed Carayol who put in an excellent cross missed by Bunn but swept in by Huws to give Town breathing space and a deserved enhanced lead. Bolton looked demoralised and only the scale of victory was in question.

The answer came when a tame corner was half cleared only for Wilson to dally long enough for Lynch to rob him with a sliding tackle, get up and crack the ball home.

The equally pitiful Derik brought down substitute Wells late on to earn a second yellow, before the misfiring Bermudian hit the goalkeeper from close range when he should have scored a confidence lifting goal.

A 5th or even 6th wouldn’t have flattered Town’s second half performance, which was a stark contrast to their listlessness in the first, and consecutive victories has not only lifted the club to mid table but also injected hope in a newly assembled squad after a difficult and disrupted early season.

Like he had at Charlton – and including his personal performance in the worryingly poor first 20 minutes – Whitehead was excellent. Strong in the tackle, economical with his passing and brimming with energy he dragged his teammates along with him, lifting them from their early lethargy.

Up front, Miller looked fitter than in the past and bullied the Bolton defence until substituted to a deserved ovation. His lack of goals continues to be an issue, but he provided an invaluable focal point for the team and, eventually, Bunn, Scannell and Carayol profited from his muscular presence.

Cranie looks as if he has resolved the troublesome right back problem – his assured competence replacing the erratic Smith and he is proving to be an astute signing, even if his introduction to the team has been too long in coming.

In Huws, we finally have a midfielder willing to get in the box – our threat from the flanks has doubled with Carayol but that has to be accompanied by team mates to aim for and the Welshman gets there.

A sterner test is coming in the shape of Forest, but, for now, our early season malaise has been banished and there can be genuine hope that the new look team can only get better with greater familiarity.

A bit of background

It occurs to me that this rather basic website doesn’t provide any background or context to the reports I have and will post up here, and since there are now quite a few people reading them who haven’t been on the htfc mailing list (see below) I think it is worth a bit of a summary.

I first became aware of this new Internet thing in about 1996. I’d read about it, of course, but also seen commercials on holiday in the US pointing people towards their sites and the enormity of what was about to happen couldn’t be missed, even by a slow Yorkshireman.

When I got back home, buying my first computer became a priority and though I couldn’t tell you what type it was (other than bloody heavy), the dial up access to a brave new world now sat in the living room of my bachelor pad in Edgerton (which was handy for a Big Shop at the nearby Shell garage)

Football in general, and Town in particular, was the first priority. What would now be viewed as primitive football club fans’ message boards were of particular interest. Some of the relatively few participants would have impossibly glamorous jobs in far flung parts, and the quality of discourse was, let’s just say, a tad superior to today’s brutal social media zoo.

The other connection to like minded folk was via email groups and Town fans had been congregating in a few numbers for some years on a mailing list run from a server in a US university by a guy called Dyche who has since mysteriously disappeared (if you are reading this etc….) and I joined in, I think, 1997.

As a frustrated journalist (I thought seriously about it as I left school in 1978 but then found out the money they were on and opted for the excitement and thrills of insurance instead), here was a medium for writing polemic views and match reports to a limited audience who may not consider me a bit of a geek for doing so.

For going on 20 years, I’ve intermittently scribbled down my thoughts for either the entertainment of a limited and reasonably well known audience, or, perhaps, their bemusement. Whatever they actually thought – they have always been kind to me but you never know – I enjoyed doing them and must have written over 100 to date.

There is also an ex-pat Town mailing list and the reports were passed on to them before I was invited (it’s a much classier place than the domestic list!) to join it. I can’t tell you what opportunities and fun has come from that invitation – lets just say that I’ve profited enormously without ever earning a penny

Why have I exposed my ramblings to the wider world? Well mainly because it occurred to me that retrieving the ones I have already done is going to take a monumental effort (I’ve started but it’s laborious) so I wanted to save them in one place for posterity. And I’m an attention seeking whore these days.

So, just a few things about Town and the reports;

  • I don’t take a notepad to games. That would be just odd
  • Accuracy is an aspiration not an objective
  • Town losing upsets me. But not for long
  • Reports on defeats are generally easier to do than victories. Which is just as well
  • I watch all home games from a box on the halfway line, courtesy of my brother who has had the facility since the stadium opened. So at least half of the reports are cheap opinion.
  • I don’t go to all away games and nowadays I miss a couple of months in the winter as I escape the horrible British winter for a Colorado winter
  • You may disagree with the report. I seriously don’t care and, in many ways, hope that you do
  • in the end, does it really matter?

So, that’s me.

Hopefully, people will stick with it but if they think, “pretentious bastard who thinks he can write, but cant”  that’s fair enough too.

Bolton report follows. If I can be arsed.

Lady Luck turns up – Charlton 1-2 Town

Shall we now carry Chris Powell shoulder high in his moment of triumph? Laud his bold team selections and tactics?

Well, no.

We can be very happy for a professional, decent man who has had to cope with several changes in his Chairman’s direction, whether these will prove to be good decisions or not in the future, and who really, really needed this unlikeliest of wins.

In truth, there wasn’t a great deal of difference between this performance against a stuttering Charlton side who were still afforded enough chances to turn around a 2 goal deficit and the other games this season (other than the opener on Humberside which resembled an extension of pre season).

Unlike the other closely fought efforts – I didn’t witness Cardiff – we some how came out on the right side of this division’s very fine margins.

This may sound like faint praise, particularly when you consider several excellent performances in the team and the context of a squad and manager under not inconsiderable pressure after a frustrating and mildly disturbing start to the season, but successfully negotiating games often balanced on knife edges is exactly what is needed for survival and better, and they did it.

My lonely trip down south was accompanied only by massive doubts about the ability of this Town team and manager to gain anything from a tough looking fixture which had resulted in something of a beating last season.

In hindsight, Charlton’s reasonably good form to date had been rather punctured by an unconvincing home draw with lowly Rotherham – over 20 efforts on the Millers’ goal had resulted in a solitary, equalising goal and though it occurred to few, if any, at the time, this tendency to profligacy and the fairly consistent defensive performances of Town should have pointed towards more hope than acknowledged.

And then we saw the team. People can decide wether this was a desperate roll of the dice from an under siege manager or tactical adjustments to meet a new challenge against a frustrated and potentially vulnerable opponent, but the changes worked.

Davidson, not surprisingly, returned at full back in place of Smith who, again unsurprisingly, really isn’t a left back and hasn’t excelled at right back either so far.

Crainie, who has been excellent every time he has been given the opportunity, was installed at right back and fully justified his inclusion with a calm and consummate performance.

Carayol was also included in the place of Bunn on the left – a move which, finally, gives us much better balance and, crucially, an alternative threat to that posed by Scannell on the right.

Huws – who is not ready for a full 90 minutes according to the manager – took over from the injured Hogg, and Wells paid for poor form on the bench with the muscularity of Miller preferred alongside Bunn who was pushed inside and forward as support.

On paper, the changes looked bold and those who had travelled in some trepidation at least had the prospect of witnessing the emergence of the post Butterfield team which was never going to be about a simple change of player and more a change in shape and objectives, particularly from the flanks.

Town’s first half dominance was pretty damn impressive. Miller caused Charlton’s centre halves no end of problems and sewed a lot of doubt in a back four which looked distinctly discomforted for much of the game, even in the closing stages when Town’s forward play weakened through the weariness of Miller and their priorities switching to containment.

Huws looks an excellent player. Strong and positive, he formed an instant and very promising partnership with the excellent Whitehead whose experience was on full and dazzling display throughout.

With two wide men, Town carried much more threat than in previous games and the strength of the visitors’ display seemed to bamboozle the Addicks in to a laborious passing game which they didn’t shake off all night.

Scannell created the first goal by winning the ball in midfield from a dozing home player before firing a great ball in to Bunn whose fierce shot could only be helped in by Charlton’s custodian. It looked like a poor effort by the keeper but he was beaten by the pace and accuracy of Bunn’s fine strike.

Town didn’t rest on the lead and continued to take the game to their hosts with not inconsiderable menace at times. A Carayol drive could only be parried by Pope only inches away from the on rushing Scannell, which followed a weakly executed but presentable headed chance for Bunn.

At the other end, Town easily coped with their labouring opponents as Whitehead mopped up in front of an assured back four and an equally composed goalkeeper who had a fine game.

Miller’s tormenting of Charlton’s back line then paid dividends when he was barged in the back 20 yards out.

Huws stepped up and curled a superb free kick past the fallible Pope to cap an excellent but sadly truncated performance.

Before the blow of Huws having to retire hurt at half time, Charlton pulled a goal back to strike all the old fear and forebodings in to the away support (which was excellent all night).

A combination of Davidson and Carayol were adjudged to have fouled Charlton’s right winger by a linesman who had hitherto appeared scared of making any decision and his first looked like a poor one. That isn’t to excuse the defence of the free kick, though it was very well delivered to the head of Sarr by Gudmundsson for an ominous lifeline for the home team.

Charlton didn’t deserve the goal but the halving of the deficit signalled new and dangerous challenges to a team hardly imbibed with high confidence and it cannot be underestimated how the loss of the excellent Huws could easily have sunk a fragile Town.

Many have been asking for more bravery from Powell – his pragmatic approach tends to dull the team’s ability to surprise; that faith in the players to improvise and excite seems to be suppressed too readily, yet when confronting clubs with more money, more fans and arguably more ambition the capacity to spring the unexpected is surely an essential commodity.

It is hard to apply any adjective other than brave than Powell’s decision to replace Huws with Billing. At long last, an Academy product was on the pitch in a real game, not brought along to smell the changing room liniment or experimentally introduced 10 minutes before the end of a no pressure game. This is the real thing, Phil!

Raw, possibly nervous and with a small mountain of responsibility resting on his shoulders, his manager couldn’t have asked for more from the young Dane. While it would have been ludicrous to expect him to have the same influence on the game as Huws, he provided energy and, at times, not a little elegance to proceedings.

The whole team must have felt on the ropes in the first 10 minutes of the second half as Charlton finally injected urgency in to their attacking. Within seconds of the kick off, Ba fired a shot whistling past the post and intent was served by the hosts, though the next chance of note fell to Miller who headed disappointingly wide when well placed.

Town’s threat was diminishing and sparse in the second period, though Miller could have released the marauding Bunn in one counter attack which would have finished the contest.

As it was, Town were largely resolute against a mundane Charlton who, nevertheless can be accused of wasting a few decent chances with weak finishing and lack of composure – the factor we had all ignored prior to the game proved to be the difference between the sides.

The most pleasing aspect of the result was the context. This was a team which had never played together before and was pretty much unrecognisable from the one which represented us at Hull, 2 unproven players (Billing and Dempsey) were introduced and every one of them must have been feeling the pressure from an inauspicious start, to say the least.

There were good performances all over the pitch, from the goalkeeper’s calm and assured display, through a back four which was occasionally breached but largely resolute to the hard work in midfield and up front, even though Miller’s stamina is still up for considerable question.

But the undoubted star was Whitehead. For some reason – and probably related to his uncomplicated style – the ex Boro man has become a target for those among the Town support who are not happy without a scapegoat. Even his solid performances in early season have attracted criticism from this constituency, but his display at the Valley was flawless and, perhaps even more importantly in the circumstances of a newly constituted team, inspirational.

One win does not a season make, but there is a new platform for the manager to work with now. You would hope and expect that he will stamp on any complacency for the visit of Bolton – a team that may be far more resilient than their increasingly impoverished circumstances may suggest – and, at least, he can now work with one particular monkey off his back.

A failure to convert – Fulham 1-1HTFC

My eldest brother and I have watched football together since he reluctantly took me to a game under parental pressure (at 15, having to be guardian to a 9 year old was a mission many would have undertaken with a sulk), but whereas I was instantly hooked, the same scenario a couple of years earlier had failed to have the same effect on my middle brother. I often envy his non commitment.
Nearly 50 years later, his second match prompted the half time comment that he would leave it a bit longer for the third game, and you could fully understand why.
While the stifling heat was undoubtedly a factor in the lethargy of both teams, the sparkling weather was not nearly matched by the spectacle on the pitch.
Town’s dogged determination was admirable in a way, given the energy sapping conditions, but soporific in many more. Fulham were largely clueless, and their fans restless, forcing Murphy in to just one save beyond the regulation and the game was not helped by regular injury stoppages and an over fussy referee (who’s non-intervention, ironically, late in the game cost us 2 points).

Amidst the torpor, Town forced Fulham’s keeper in to 2 saves, and had the much discussed Butterfield’s shot fallen more kindly, Bunn may have put us in to an ill deserved lead.

Jacob, who was widely reported to be out of the squad (along with Vaughan, which also turned out to be false), showed us what we will be missing if Derby’s 4th offer is high enough. His intelligence and quick feet shone throughout – not only will it be a shame for him to go, you can’t also help feeling that, finances aside, his talent will be sidelined once the Rams get their full squad back and a player who possibly slightly lacks top division football quality through a lack of pace isn’t entirely convinced by the potential move either.

Thankfully, the first half drifted to an end – Fulham’s forwards had barely troubled dogged but sleep inducing Town defending and, yet again, deploying Wells up front largely on his own (against a huge centre half) never allowed us to build good pressure.

As they had against Hull, however, Town showed more ambition in a relatively lively second half. It was by no stretch of the imagination a classic , but both sides began to find more space and Town were showing more adventure.

Scannell had two back post efforts – a shot easily saved when Wells was better placed and a header the keeper did well to claw away – and the travelling support could see a little hope.

At the other end, Murphy made an excellent point blank save from a header and, along with a high quality stop from a McCormick free kick later in the game, has adapted exceptionally well to his new number 1 status. He is certainly not afraid to vent his frustrations at defenders – a sheepish Lynch was lambasted for giving away a cheap corner in the first half – and it is the type of organisational attention you want a keeper to show and which Smithies largely lacked.

The save at close range was pivotal – shortly afterwards, a Bunn surge on the right took him past a couple of defenders before the ball broke loose to Wells to slot home. It was his first goal away from home since the early part of last season at Ipswich and while he can still be unconvincing in general play (not helped by performing a now familiar but alien role), he looks harper in front of goal when rare chances come his way.

At this point, Chris Powell’s pragmatic tactics made some sense – soak up home side pressure then counter when they become frustrated – and further chances were created while Fulham simply didn’t look very dangerous despite having most of the possession following the goal. The best of these should have fallen to Miller (who had replaced Scannell to protect the talisman’s hamstring), but instead of playing the ball to him, Bunn elected to try to squeeze the ball in at the near post but the keeper was equal to it.

Butterfield was then replaced by Dempsey following a dead leg injury (inappropriate thoughts turned to an imminent medical) and much of our forward momentum was lost as eyes turned to the clock.

5 minutes of injury time were tortuous enough without the referee, who had favoured the home side throughout, refused what looked like an obvious free kick for 2 separate hacks at Bunn in the corner. Had Bunn been in a Fulham shirt, a game closing free kick would have been awarded but, as it was, a frustrated Bunn gave away a foul himself and the desperate Cottagers through up a long ball to their giant centre half to knock down to substitute Cauley Woodrow to equalise from close range.

The disappointment was palpable, but when the ire towards the referee had died down, supporters could reflect upon the fact that even a point seemed highly unlikely beforehand with the upheavals we are having to suffer in the lead up to the close of the transfer window.

A win, which we probably deserved, would have boosted us up an admittedly nascent league table of a division producing a surprising number of draws in the first weeks of the season, and it would have been a confidence boost for players, manager and fans.

While the football had been of fairly poor quality and the ending frustrating and disappointing, a summer visit to Craven Cottage and its gentrified surroundings was still pleasurable – though not enough to persuade my brother to experience the delights of Wolverhampton, Hull and Middlesbrough any time soon.