THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Premier League ~ Fulham find some second-half form
Fulham have struggled to play away from home for some time, but this season they have taken to only playing in the second half of matches at Craven Cottage. It's as if the players can't function too far from the Hammersmith End, so they defend it for the first half before laying siege to it in the second. On Saturday afternoon they were booed off at half time, when trailing to a stunning strike by Newcastle's Danny Guthrie. Martin Jol later admitted it was the worst half of football one his teams had produced in his career.

But within 20 minutes of the restart Fulham had scored four, with Bobby Zamora seeming to chastise the home fans for their lack of faith after each Fulham goal. Perhaps the fans should know better. Fulham were the first team to take points off Manchester City this season, when they came back from two goals down to earn a draw at the Cottage. And despite lacklustre first-half performances against Liverpool and Arsenal, they managed to beat both with late goals. After the game, Jol compared his team's first half performance to "sort of Brixton", with the second "a holiday in Jamaica". With West Brom, Stoke and Wolves up next at the Cottage, the supporters will not know what to expect, but they would be wise to take their best player's advice and save the boos until after the match.

Championship ~ Coventry play the loan market well
If Coventry City have any chance of staying up this season it looks like they will have to rely on their home form. The Championship's bottom club beat promotion-chasing Middlesbrough 3-1 at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, closing the gap to Ipswich in 21st to six points. The club, whose owners SISU have come under increasing pressure from fans because of their apparent unwillingness to sell or invest more money, have collected all but three of their points at home this season. The victory over Middlesbrough was inspired by Coventry debutant Alex Nimely, a new loan signing from Manchester City. It was a blow to Tony Mowbray's side, who had Nimely on loan for the first half of the season – perhaps now they will be regretting ending the striker's deal.

League One ~ Rochdale need to find some leadership 
Wycombe Wanderers helped their chances of avoiding relegation to League Two with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Rochdale at Adams Park. The result meant they leap-frog Rochdale into 22nd place, just two points away from safety. Alarmingly for Rochdale, who have been without a manager since they sacked Steve Eyre in December, they have now won only once since beating Wycombe in the return fixture on October 1. Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman has been given permission to speak to the Rochdale board about taking over the manager's position at Spotland.

League Two ~ Fletcher could be finding his feet at Plymouth
Plymouth Argyle's 1-1 draw over second-place Crawley Town lifted them out of the relegation zone for the first time since August. It will give young player-manager Carl Fletcher, who has been requesting a managerial mentor since taking over at Home Park in September, a timely confidence boost. Argyle's form has picked up in recent weeks, having lost only twice in their last nine games. They have been playing catch-up to teams above them all season, following a torrid start that saw them collect just one point from the first 27 available.

Conference ~ Darlington and Kettering keep battling on
The surprise in the Conference this weekend was not that Darlington and Kettering Town lost to second-place Fleetwood Town and league-leaders Wrexham respectively, but that the games were going ahead at all. Darlington's much-publicised "13th-hour miracle" to save the club from liquidation prompted an official attendance of 5,638 to see them lose 1-0. Kettering, meanwhile, are in the relegation zone, without a win since October and their players are not currently being paid. Manager Mark Cooper did not take charge for the 4-1 defeat to Wrexham, despite insisting he is not resigning, and only nine players turned up for training last Thursday. Both Darlington and Kettering remain on the brink of extinction.

Africa Cup of Nations ~ Equatorial Guinea rise to the occasion
There may have been more celebrating than usual in the Equatorial Guinea dressing room after their surprise 1-0 victory over Libya in the tournament's opening game. The players had been promised a bonus of $1 million by the son of the country's president if they managed to win, a gesture which was criticised by poverty campaigners. "For us the money is not very important," said midfielder Juvenal Edjogo-Owono. "The most important thing is to start the competition with a win. Now we will see the future more optimistically." Seven in ten people live below the poverty line in Equatorial Guinea, with one in five children dying before their fifth birthday, despite the country's GDP per capita being almost identical to the UK's. Tom Hocking & Paul Campbell

Comments (1)
Comment by geobra 2012-01-23 17:21:48

And in Italy we had proof, if proof was needed, that the infamous 'Tessera del Tifoso' (Fan Card) is no panacea against violence. During a minute's silence before the start of Atalanta v Juventus, Juve ultràs bombarded a sector full (mostly) of Atalanta fans with flares and firecrackers. Five people were hurt, two of them, ironically, Juve fans who obviously didn't want to be among the ultràs. Since you have to be in possession of the card to gain access to the visitors sector, those responsible must have been card-holders, which gives the lie to the idea that the cards would only be purchased by peaceful fans.

The incidents also showed how easy it is to smuggle explosive material into grounds now that the controls are carried out by stewards who do not have the powers of the police and whose checks are, frankly, cursory in the extreme. Apparently the fourth official contemplated not allowing the game to start, so one must hope that Juventus will receive an exemplary punishment.

Predictably, the incidents have received little mention in the press or on TV, and there has been no comment from Juventus. They have an excellent team again, but they have a big problem with a minority of their fans.

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