BLACKPOOL folk are beginning to hate London.
Four games, no goals scored, 13 conceded. As statistics go, not the best. 6-0 at Arsenal, shipped four at Chelsea, and three more here.
At least Ian Holloway’s men escaped with a draw at West Ham, which, in the great scheme of things, now seems like a terrific result.
But it hasn’t been good in the capital, and the bad news is that Pool are back again next month, at Tottenham.
If the current trend continues, God knows what the score might be in that one...
This was a miserable afternoon as the Seasiders threw in a performance to rival the one at Wolves a few weeks ago – in other words, poor.
It had started so brightly, with the sun shining on a Craven Cottage ground that is a beautiful, old-fashioned, proper footballing arena.
Strolling along the banks of the Thames from Putney Bridge tube station to the stadium has to be one of the nicest walks in football – barring Blackpool North station to Bloomfield Road obviously.
It all started to go a bit weird when half an hour before kick-off, the Tannoy crackled into life and the announcer said, in very grand tones: “Ladies and gentleman, Mr Mohamed Al Fayed!”
Flanked by what appeared to be five bodyguards, Mr Fayed emerged from the tunnel waving to the 500 or so fans in the ground at that point (about 37 or so of whom applauded) and then, for no apparent reason, ambled across the middle of the pitch before disappearing into the stand at the opposite end.
Very odd, but then again so is his decision to build a statue of Michael Jackson outside the ground.
The six-foot high gold statue, which appears to depict Jackson wearing ammunition belts and his underpants over his trousers, was unveiled before kick off.
I’m behind generous when I say it is absolutely awful.
However, if you’ve no kind of a life whatsoever, it’s worth a visit.
Ian Holloway is reportedly a fan of it, but it’s unlikely the day will hold many other fond memories for the Seasiders boss.
He sprang a surprise by making a couple of changes to the team which did so well at Blackburn last time out, bringing in Brett Ormerod and James Beattie for Luke Varney and Jason Puncheon.
Aware of Fulham’s power, the manager was attempting to make Pool a little more physical but it didn’t really work, as the team suffered from a lack of pace up front – pace that certainly Varney would have added.
The day didn’t start well for Charlie Adam, smacked in the face by the ball during the pre-match warm-up.
He looked a little cheesed off, as you would be, and his mood didn’t improve when he was booked – rightly so – for a cynical challenge from behind on Bobby Zamora soon after kick-off.
Maybe that was the reason Zamora was so fired up for the rest of the half because the centre forward – fit again after recovering from a broken leg – was the standout player.
On the one hand, it is lovely to see a player coming back so strongly from such a terrible injury.
But did it really have to happen against Blackpool? Sod’s Law.
Ian Holloway used to manage Zamora in their days together at Bristol Rovers, and had talked in the build-up to the game of the striker’s goalscoring talents. He wasn’t lying.
After a cagey opening 20 minutes when the Seasiders actually looked pretty good – knocking the ball around patiently and making Fulham work hard to win possession – Zamora opened the scoring.
The provider was Beattie, who had one of those moments every footballer dreads when he miscued a pass through the heart of his own back four.
Zamora latched on to it and showed what a top class frontman he is by outpacing Craig Cathcart – no slouch – and rifling an unstoppable rising drive, which smashed against the underside of the bar and into the net.
Great finish – horrible moment for Beattie, who held his head in his hands for a good 10 seconds after the full horror of what he had done sank in.
To be honest, Pool had been lucky to escape without conceding prior to that.
Richard Kingson, selected despite his late error at Blackburn, made a
a terrific fingertip stop to push Damien Duff’s low shot onto the post.
It was a good moment for Kingson and hard not to feel pleased for him. He has been criticised by some supporters following the Blackburn game, but they shouldn’t forget how many decent saves the Ghanaian has pulled off since stepping in for the injured Matt Giks in November.
Kingson could do nothing about Fulham’s second on 27 minutes. Stephen Crainey caught Duff on the right flank.
The Irishman whipped in a free kick and Zamora rose almost unchallenged at the near post to head home.
Pool were bruised and battered.
It showed in their play, for they never really recovered.
The closest they came to getting a foothold in the contest was just before half-time when Ormerod out-jumped Mark Schwarzer and nodded the ball towards goal.
Alas there was no pace on the effort, and Chris Baird managed to dash back clear off the line in the nick of time. The last glimmer of hope came and went on the hour when Beattie almost made up for his earlier error when, racing onto an Adam pass, his shot from a tight angle beat Schwarzer but hit the post.
It was a rare good moment in an otherwise plodding team performance.
Holloway recognised as much and threw on all three substitutes after 69 minutes – Varney, Puncheon and Sergei Kornlienko told to change the course of the game.
It almost worked. Adam’s lovely surge forward and pass put Puncheon in the clear on the right side of the area. Unfortunately, the on-loan Southampton man, straight off the bench and perhaps still rusty, could only hit a tame shot straight at Schwarzer.
It proved costly as the home side wrapped up the points 18 minutes from the end, when Dickson Etuhu prodded in after Clint Dempsey’s header had come back off the post.
Heads visibly went down after that and there was never any hint of a comeback on the cards.
Pool rallied at the death, with Cathcart heading a good chance over in stoppage time and Taylor-Fletcher shooting wide after Adam’s right-footed effort had been parried.
But it was Fulham’s day, Pool were second best and didn’t deserve a result.
Some depressing stats: The Seasiders haven’t won any of their last eight visits to Craven Cottage, last getting three points at this venue in 1986.
More pertinent to this campaign, Pool haven’t won an away game in 2011, losing five and drawing one of their last six away matches.
They have won just two of their last 14 outings. But forget it.
Yes, it was a poor performance and it was desperately disappointing to get beaten so easily, but Pool’s fate was always going to be decided at Bloomfield Road in the next four successive home games.
That’s where all energies have to be concentrated now.
DJ Campbell is back, and, after Arsenal – when, as West Brom and Blackburn proved, a result is possible – they have crucial fixtures against Wigan, Stoke and Newcastle.
Play like they are capable of, and the Seasiders will get wins.
Two of them could be enough to keep them in the Premier League.
There are 21 points still on offer – six to eight will be enough to stay up.
So don’t get too down – a bad day at the office, but it’s still all to play for.
Just keep us away from London for a while.