[unable to retrieve full-text content]
In the words of the Fulham faithful, who needs Zamora when they’ve got The Pog? Pavel Pogrebnyak, their January deadline-day replacement for the QPR striker, probably needs the nickname. But as Wolverhampton Wanderers will attest, he is a handful as well as a mouthful.
The Russia striker, who is on a short-term contract from Stuttgart until the end of the season, when he becomes a free agent, reinforced the impression that he is made to measure for the Premier League. Having scored vital goals in his first two games â€“ the wins over Stoke and Queens Park Rangers â€“ he plundered a hat-trick that sank Wolves and managed to emboss his fine performance of power and finesse. It has been difficult to reconcile his toils at Stuttgart.
Fulham leapt from 13th to eighth and they might have reflected that the last time they won three league matches in a row, they narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship at the end of 2007-08. They are a different proposition these days, bristling with verve and attacking intent under Martin Jol.
The drop, though, was a principal plot-line because, in simple terms, if Terry Connor’s Wolves play and, in particular, defend like this for the remainder of the season, they will be relegated. This was an afternoon for them to stand up and be counted, with most of the ingredients in place for a dogfight. Yet, as the rain fell and the wind whipped off the Thames, they disappeared without trace.
Fulham could have reached double figures. Wayne Hennessey made smart saves when the game was goalless; Andrew Johnson, who set up two and also hit the crossbar, did everything but score and Fulham created chances almost at will towards the end. Moussa DembÃ©lÃ©, the striker deployed in central midfield, was excellent, wowing the crowd with his skills, while Clint Dempsey has now scored 18 goals in all competitions, which is some return for a wide player. The American is so underrated that he is in danger of becoming overrated.
The day belonged to Pogrebnyak, who enjoyed a tremendous ovation when he was substituted but for Wolves it was a day of soul searching. The travelling fans celebrated Jamie O’Hara’s on-target 90th-minute shot with ironic cheers. Connor, asked to perform the salvage operation after the ham-fisted failure to appoint an external successor to the sacked manager Mick McCarthy, attempted to put the drubbing down to a few of lapses and a subsequent desire to chase the game.
He repeatedly mentioned Fulham’s third as the turning point and he even claimed that until then his team had “a platform to grab a goal back”. In his first game in charge, at Newcastle United, they had recovered from 2-0 down to draw but a repeat never looked likely. This was a dismal game for Wolves in which there were only negatives, including Karl Henry’s withdrawal with a hamstring injury. Connor’s post-match fighting talk has to be heeded. “We are always going to get a bloody nose every now and again,” he said. “It’s how we bounce back.” Wolves entertain Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
It was gruesome to watch Wolves’ defending, beginning with the opening goal, when the hulking Pogrebnyak was ignored at Damien Duff’s disputed corner. Kevin Foley played Richard Stearman into trouble on the second â€“ Johnson broke swiftly to cut back for Pogrebnyak â€“ while the third saw Danny Murphy’s low pass carve apart Wolves and Dempsey finished coolly, as he did for the fifth, from Mahamadou Diarra’s ball. Pogrebnyak got his hat-trick after Hennessey parried Johnson’s shot.
When Wolves wake up, they will find themselves back in the bottom three.
Man of the match Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham)