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Fit to be tied: Blackpool 2, Fulham 2

28 August 2010

There’s a lot of say in the aftermath of another pulsating 2-2 Premiership draw for the Cottagers.

Unlike last week’s point from Manchester United at home, this one at newly renovated Bloomfield Road feels a bit hollow, despite a second straight week with a late equalizer. The deft finish from Dickson Etuhu after being played through by a sublime ball from new boy Moussa Dembele salvaged a share of the spoils, but if Fulham has any real designs on mounting a European challenge, these are the away fixtures they need three points from.

Etuhu's poised finish salvaged a point for the Cottagers.

That said, as mentioned in the preview and reemphasized again today, Blackpool are not the walkover everyone expected them to be, at least early in the campaign. Ian Holloway has done good business importing guys like Marlon Harewood and today’s scorer, Luke Varney, on the extremely cheap and he deserves credit for sticking with an extremely open 4-3-3 formation despite the theoretical gulf in class between his sides and Prem opponents. They’re fun to watch and they were very good value for the result today. Also, the tenor of the match changed after Bobby Zamora left in the 59th minute with an injured thigh that could sideline him for a little while.

A bit unfortunate to be down 1-0 to a Zamora goal on the balance of play, Blackpool claimed the lead in a handful of mid-second half minutes. They leveled off an awkward own-goal from John Pantsil, already Fulham’s second of the season after conceding a league-high five last year, but the second goal would have flattered any top-tier side. A sweet sequence of passes carved open the Fulham midfield, with the final, incisive one springing Varney, who was played on by Pantsil and gleefully slotted home past the stranded David Stockdale.

So far this campaign, Fulham has been very strong in the final minutes of each game, and that was the story again today. After a couple of decent half-chances, Dembele found room in the midfield off a turnover and rolled a glorious throughball into the path of an advancing Etuhu, who calmly chipped the despairing Matt Jelks to level the affair.

To sum up, there’s a lot to be encouraged about if you’re a Fulham fan, especially the ongoing presence of the battling spirit that was cultivated by Roy Hodgson over the past two seasons. They also have claimed two away points in their first two matches after getting only 10 from 19 fixtures last season. At some point, though, if you want to be considered a legitimate team, you have to start breaking through on the road. Today was a prime opportunity to do so. Instead, it’s now 20 straight away matches without a win.

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