This disappointing start to the season goes on for North End as we were beaten 2-1 at home by Fulham.
The visitors were not brilliant but they looked well organised, just as Reading did last week, and we could not make enough inroads early in the game to stamp any authority on proceedings. A midfield, once again, struggling to get a tackle in and losing far too many 50/50 balls in that oh-so-crucial centre of the park. The forwards had very little to feed off for the first hour of the game but having said that I didn’t feel that Garner and Doyle looked like scoring much all afternoon. We did improve when Robinson and Beckford came on but, just as last week, we didn’t really deserve anything, for our general play was not up to Championship standard for long periods as was the crowd, which was a hugely disappointing 10,809. I just wonder how many of those who walked away on Tuesday evening didn’t bother coming back today. It was Fulham who started the better but to be honest this was not a game that would set hearts racing. And although Fulham have won both games in the league I do not expect them, or Reading for that matter, to be in the top six come the end of the season. It was the visitors who took the lead on the half-hour when Aluko had the fortune to find himself in the right place at the right time after a clearance and a deflected header bounced right to him to nod home. Robinson and Beckford came on to replace Pringle and Doyle but not before Smith had made it 2-0 to the visitors. North End rallied and when Robinson pulled one back four minutes later it looked game on. North End pushed for an equaliser and it looked like they had got one when Beckford headed home with three minutes to go only to be controversially ruled offside and North End’s chance of salvaging something from the game had gone. Two league games with nothing to show for it and the most concern must be about the periods in both games where we offered very little. We are desperately lacking a leader on the field and many people were asking where John Welsh was to add a little bit of steel in the North End engine room. It is very early in the season to be predicting how things will turn out but already we need 50 points from 44 games. The squad is better than last season but I have yet to be convinced that the starting XI is as good.
We slumped to a second successive league defeat unable to avenge our pre-season friendly defeat on Foto Island with a performance which only clicked into action in the second half. In the first half we started very slow and sat back a lot, allowing Fulham to dictate the play, and it was no surprise when they went into the interval with a one-goal lead gifted to them by some sloppy defending. After the break, it was like the half-time team talk had been delivered by Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army as we were “up and at them “straight from the kick-off, running and chasing our opponents down and not giving them the same amount of time on the ball that we did in the first half. Simon Grayson opted to play up top with a partnership of Doyle and Garner but neither forward was on fire and their defence certainly was not terrified. This changed after the pair were replaced by he pacier Robinson and the not quite fully fit Beckford. However, while they were waiting to come on, Fulham had raced downfield and doubled their advantage against the run of play, aided once again by some sloppy defenders who backed off to much without making a vital tackle. To our credit, we fought back almost instantly with a well-worked goal headed in by Robinson. Three minutes from time we had what seemed to me, from my position in the stand, a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside, despite three defenders being on the goal line when Beckford headed in. A point would have been a just reward for our spirited second half display but we are really going to have to start playing in both halves if we are going to pull away from the bottom end of the table and reach the dizzy heights of last season.
The less than impressive start to Preston’s season continued at Deepdale as they slumped to a nothing less than deserved defeat to a Fulham side who picked up their second league win in as many games. The home side really struggled from the off to get a grip of the game, and stamp any sort of authority on it. Fulham opened the scoring on the half-hour mark as the lively Sone Aluko found himself in the right place at the right time to head home after some comical defending from the Preston defence. Both sides had goals correctly disallowed either side of half-time but it was the home side who started the better of the two sides in the second half, although their little burst of energy was soon kicked out of them as the visitors extended the lead. Tom Cairney simply danced through the Preston defence far, far too easily before Matt Smith put the ball past Lindegaard at the second attempt. The introduction of Beckford and Robinson again injected a bit of energy in to the home side, and it looked slightly promising for a few minutes when Robinson headed home from a Beckford cross after a lovely ball forward from man of the match Liam Grimshaw. It could, and definitely should have been 2-2 with just three minutes left when Beckford headed home from close range but the linesman flagged wrongly for offside. That was that and North End fell to their second defeat in as many league games. A big improvement needed from the club quickly, or it’s going to be a long season ahead.