Steve Wigley may not have the badges to be a Premiership manager but he soon may not have the blazer to pin them on either.
Steve Wigley may not have the badges to be a Premiership manager but he soon may not have the blazer to pin them on either. The Southampton head coach wants time to gain the Uefa Pro-Coaching Licence he needs to manage in the division but that may prove to be, well, academic. His Southampton side are downwardly-mobile and chairman Rupert Lowe will not think twice about making yet another change even if he was foolishly precipitous in sacking Paul Sturrock. Four defeats and one dismal draw since then constitutes an appalling start even if Fulham's victory owed an inordinate amount to the brilliance of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar who made three superb saves.
To cap it all Wigley and Lowe were barracked by the Southampton fans while Anders Svensson showed his displeasure when substituted by refusing to sit in the dug-out. He slumped next to a nearby wall. The fans chanted their support. "We have to accept that our supporters are disappointed," said Wigley, "because they want to see us winning games."
This victory for Fulham, gained through Tomasz Radzinski's coolly constructed goal, arrested their own slide to secure only their second league win. It was all the more relieving following the fractious encounters with Arsenal and West Brom which resulted in one point but brought their tally of cards to two red and 11 yellow. Coleman, understandably, didn't want to go back over that bumpy old ground, although he was insistent in stating that he had never "condoned" any bad behaviour.
To be fair to Wigley, Southampton's commitment was unquestionable. "They had a go," said Coleman. "They did not look like a team to me who are lying down." Which was true, but that desire did not burn as fiercely as Fulham's even if Coleman's own assessment that his team was "mediocre" appeared a little harsh. "Did we deserve to win?" he said. "Maybe not. Southampton had more chances and our keeper played well. The lads are not stupid. They know we didn't play great, but we got the result."
Which is where the difference lay. Coleman was denied eight players by mishaps and misdemeanours and deployed a functional 4-4-2 to "grind out" the points. They did just that. The occasional spark came from the thankfully fit Steed Malbranque and, even more so, Luis Boa Morte. Time and again Fulham probed the weakness down Southampton's right, where Mikael Nilsson looked an ill-at-ease full-back; from one such move, on 23 minutes, Boa Morte swung in a cross for which Radzinski darted in to head his first Fulham goal.
Before that the best chances had fallen to Southampton. A fine run by Svensson had set up Fabrice Fernandes and James Beattie's header glanced wide while Kevin Phillips was smartly stopped by the goalkeeper. Fulham were also profligate with Brian McBride's poor first touch eating up the space for a decent shot and Antti Niemi fielding his eventual effort.
After the break, Fulham - despite shots from Malbranque, Radzinski and Mark Pembridge - were gradually pushed back even if Boa Morte was denied by Niemi's block. By then the chances were falling in a steady stream to Southampton. First Rory Delap side-footed weakly over and Beattie's clean, opportunistic half-volley from the corner of the area was beaten out by Van der Sar. Next Phillips missed the best opportunity of all after a horrendous mis-hit of a clearance by Ian Pearce. Clear on goal, he dragged his shot wide and fell with his head in his hands. Still he managed to snap another volley which Van der Sar parried.
The goalkeeper, making his 100th Premiership appearance, becoming only the 10th Dutchman to reach that mark, then executed his best save in blocking a fierce volley from Delap, who was no more than 10 yards out. Fulham had the points and it wasn't just Van der Sar celebrating a landmark. This was also Coleman's 50th game in charge. It's not too cruel to state that Wigley is somewhat unlikely to reach that total.Reuse content