The way I see it ? Fulham v Arsenal

Last updated : 07 May 2004 By Jason Hogan

A pattern had established itself by that point which probably wouldn't have changed if we had played for the rest of last weekend. The Blues came to defend first and foremost and their negativity allied to our own lethargy meant that the eventual 0-0 scoreline was inevitable.

All that was really left for me to take from the afternoon by way of a memory was how the North Bank almost seemed to be woken out of their usual slumber and actually made some noise for once. The other thing that I took away as a memory as I sat in the Clock End watching was the fact that I managed to clap eyes once again on an absolutely gorgeous brunette who regularly acts as a steward down there. Believe me, she is the kind of woman that evokes pretty salacious thoughts I can tell you.

After the game I briefly met up with my mate Angus and his son Tom just to sort out a little business and then having left them I got a text from my mate Gary who was en route to Spain on business. He said that he was going to the Nou Camp to watch Barca play Espanyol and in reply I said that I hoped he would enjoy that game a lot more than I enjoyed the Birmingham game. And, with hindsight, I would definitely say that his weekend ended up being far more enjoyable than mine certainly in football terms anyway!

I also said to Gary by way of a text that we would definitely have to up the gear at Portsmouth if we were going to come away from Fratton Park unscathed and keep the unbeaten record going and I wasn't kidding. Indeed by the time Tuesday night's game came around I had a rather uneasy feeling about it.

For a start, I knew that Pompey's home record had been pretty impressive over the course of the season and that Chelsea were the only team in the top six to actually get a win there. What's more they had amassed 17 points from a possible 21 in an unbeaten run of seven games. Almost championship form is that you could say.

In the end I thought the game itself was a super one. I thought that we played well throughout and we certainly played with much more assurance and purpose than we did on Saturday.

Pompey played their part as well to be fair to them. We almost had the monopoly on possession but on the isolated occasions when they got some good possession, Pompey got some good service up to their front two of Yakubu and LuaLua. The two African lads certainly caused us a few problems and neither Toure nor Campbell enjoyed a smooth ride.

Still if I wasn't altogether surprised that it was Yakubu that actually scored the goal which put Pompey in the lead, I have to admit that it almost seemed to come out of the blue and at half time I couldn't help wondering whether this was the night when our hopes of going the entire season unbeaten would go up in smoke. Thankfully, the Arsenal and in particular, Jose Antonio Reyes, had other ideas.

I thought that the lad was having a pretty mixed night. The youngster was a little scratchy in the way he played for the first 20 minutes was a little scratchy but as the game went he warmed to his task more and more and it was no real surprise that it was he that pulled us level early in the second half.

For the next 25 minutes or so we were in complete control and there were times when things looked a little ominous for Pompey.

Yet, we couldn't find a second goal and in the end we were indebted to Jens Lehmann's agility and alertness.When Yakubu suddenly burst clean through late on I was having kittens that's for sure.

Still all was well that ended well and all things considered I think that the result suited both parties just fine. The Pompey fans even gave us a standing ovation off the pitch. I have to say that they have been terrific in their support for their club and there isn't a top flight club with a set of fans that deserve to be in the Premiership more than them.

As for us it's a case of 36 down and two to go and our next stop is Loftus Road on Sunday where we will face Fulham.

Now, in the aftermath of Tuesday's game, people were lavishing high praise (and rightly so) on Harry Redknapp for the job he has done for Pompey. Some people were even offering the suggestion that he should be made Manager of the Year.

Maybe that is a little fanciful thinking because I think it would be fairly safe to say that Arsene has that particular accolade in the bag though I understand the sentiments of those who are making a case for good old Harry.

Still, whilst we are on the subject of heaping praise on people I think that Chris Coleman also deserves a huge amount of credit. Most people had Fulham down as odds on favourites for the drop at the start of the season and to be honest I was as baffled by that as I was outraged at all the stick Arsenal took in the wake of the Russian revolution that had just started up at Stamford Bridge.

However, Coleman and indeed his team clearly had other ideas. In fact up until a few weeks ago, the Cottagers were dreaming of getting into Europe via the league never mind looking over their shoulders at the relegation trapdoor.

I would love a penny for the thoughts of Coleman right now on the whole situation that led to the eventual departure of Louis Saha. Deep down, I'm sure that Coleman was always resigned to losing Saha from the moment ManUre came a-calling for him but I'm sure that there must be a part of him that wished that he was able to hold on to him at least until the summer and I would bet that he has had more than the odd wistful thought over the fact that he will now never ever know whether Saha would have shot them into what many would have considered a highly unlikely European place.

Nevertheless it's a credit to Coleman and those that Saha left behind that they have refused to feel sorry for themselves unduly and that they have still gone on to have a season that has been far more solid than people thought.

Part of the reason for that is a chap called Steed Malbranque. The short, stocky Frenchman has once again been the main driving force behind Fulham this season. He really is a class act and given that he is still the right side of 25 the best is still to come from this lad.

Another lad who has done Fulham proud particularly in the wake of Saha's departure is our former player, Luis Boa Morte. The boy has definitely improved as a player since he moved to Fulham and he is now firmly back in the fold at international level with his native Portugal.

They are definitely the two main men for us to watch out for on Sunday but we must also be careful not to underestimate the likes of Brian McBride, Sean Davis or indeed their new young Liberian striker Collins John. He has taken to the Premiership like a duck to water and he could be a handful.

When we met this lot in last year's corresponding fixture at Loftus Road we were seriously lucky to come away with a win. Mind you, a mixture of heroics from Edwin Van Der Sar and the pure grace of God stopped them from getting an absolute tonking at Highbury this autumn.

What I am driving at is that I think Sunday's game has the makings of a cracking contest because Fulham are definitely a good footballing side in their own right and they are capable of giving anyone a real game on their day.

That's what the Arsenal should expect on Sunday. History still awaits but I think that if we are going to get a result against Fulham we are going have to really earn it.