Fulham”s match was an important test, a test we failed. Of the top nine clubs, we had only beaten one, Norwich, so we had to prove that if we are to mount any sort of challenge we take points off the big boys.
At the moment they do not come any bigger than Bournemouth, the surprise leaders who are the division top scorers. And that was another test: could we, who have conceded the most in the league, keep a third consecutive clean sheet ?
The game was played in driving rain but we could neither blame the conditions nor really a referee whose decisions favoured the home side. Bournemouth – as were Watford, Derby, Brentford, and Middlesbrough – were palpably the better team. They passed the ball slickly, their midfielders ran into the box and they pressed effectively. It was no surprise after a period of pressure Pitman scored from a corner. It might have been two,but for a Bettanelli penalty save, his third of the season. In the second half there was a period of pressure and a strange penalisation of Willliams when he seemed upended, not simulating, in the box but it was Bournemouth who added to their score in injury time. But for Bettanelli’s
save it might have been 3-0. The stark realisation is that we are not a top of the table side. We will probably beat Brighton on Monday and continue to defeat those around and below us, but lose to the better sides.
The Fulham faithful that braved the dreadful weather and the difficulties of Boxing Day travel gave loud support but the taunting of Bournemouth that they had never beaten Juventus only emphasised to me how far we had descended and whether we would ever return to such giddy heights.
There was little to entertain me on the pitch but much in the Fawlty-style hotel I was staying overnight . This hotel specialised in bowls outings which explained why the average age was 90. There was a party for the elderly who wore kiss me quick straw hats and were served execrable food. A disco played sixties hits including a segue of Stones favourites. I bet Mick,Jagger and Keith Richards would never have predicted when they wrote Satisfaction and the former strutted provocatively that it would be featuring in a superannuated disco in Bournemouth 50 years later.