Dickov casts Fulham's ancient mariners adrift

Fulham 0 Blackburn Rovers 2
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The Independent Football

The Fulham manager Chris Coleman had labelled this "a six-pointer". If so, Fulham duly dropped six points. They certainly slid deeper into relegation trouble with this, their third straight defeat. Fulham were as appalling in virtually every department as Blackburn were enterprising and upbeat in registering only their second win of the season, and their first away, although as the manager, Mark Hughes, pointed out: "We haven't been beaten in five games now. That's not the form of a team struggling."

The Fulham manager Chris Coleman had labelled this "a six-pointer". If so, Fulham duly dropped six points. They certainly slid deeper into relegation trouble with this, their third straight defeat. Fulham were as appalling in virtually every department as Blackburn were enterprising and upbeat in registering only their second win of the season, and their first away, although as the manager, Mark Hughes, pointed out: "We haven't been beaten in five games now. That's not the form of a team struggling."

As a lunchtime match which had finished before anyone else kicked off, Blackburn were also given the enormous, if temporary, boost of a five-place rise from the bottom of the Premiership.

Not that Hughes's side appeared short of confidence. They flew at Fulham from the start, disrupted what little cohesion the London side were trying to assemble and were well worth the victory. Fulham are celebrating their 125th year and their efforts frequently looked equally ancient. Only Steed Malbranque and the lone striker and captain, Andy Cole, could be excepted from blame, though what on earth Fulham were doing parading a single striker against the bottom club defies conjecture.

Whatever happened to the Fulham of the John Collins era, the team that passed their way so brilliantly into the Premiership? Hit and hope will get them nowhere, as they showed. Perhaps more than anything, they could use someone with the commitment and pace of a Paul Dickov. Preferably three or four like him, to judge from the half-speed, half-hearted efforts of some wearing the white shirt. The ineptitude has not escaped the Cottage supporters either. Individual errors were booed and the team were jeered off, both at half-time and the finish.

The jeers were deserved, in Coleman's opinion. In a coruscating appraisal, the Premiership's youngest manager said: "My team didn't look as if they were interested, to be honest. They danced about, not competing, and we made them look a good team. Too many of them think they can just show up and hide. I don't think they realise the position we are in. We have lost six games out of eight now. The first 45 minutes were definitely the worst I can remember in my time in charge."

Claiming he would have liked to change everybody at the interval if he had been able, Coleman said: "Their body language was atrocious. So-called ball players didn't want the ball. Not enough of my players are angry or disappointed enough when we lose. They had better start fighting like Blackburn. If they aren't prepared to roll their sleeves up, there is no room for them in my team. I was looking to bring in one or two [players] in January. It will be three or four now."

The uncertain Fulham defence was ripped apart before 10 minutes had gone. When Lucas Neill's throw was transferred into the middle by Steven Reid, Paul Gallagher found himself unmarked at the near post for a simple turn-in.

Tomasz Radzinski then squandered Fulham's best, indeed only, chance of the first half when he was put through by Papa Bouba Diop but dragged his shot wide. In Blackburn's goal Brad Friedel made one save, and an outstanding one too, in the 65th minute. Cole barged through to aim a shot just inside a post, but the American, at full stretch, turned it aside.

Blackburn wrapped it up with 13 minutes left. In tackling Dickov, Zat Knight capped a miserable match by deliberately handling, collecting a second yellow and dismissal, as well as giving away the penalty which Dickov side-footed past Edwin van der Sar, who had just replaced Mark Crossley, suffering a groin strain. Crossley, at least, was well out of it.

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