Cottage Pies and Pints

Saturday 23rd January 2016 – Fulham 0 – 1 Hull City AFC

Championship @ Craven Cottage, London

My second trip away with Hull City in 2016, and it was back to West London, this time Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC.

On the train into London, I did a quick count of how many times I have been to Craven Cottage previously. Five in total; their 2-1 victory against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League (it poured down, and Zamora scored the winner….), a rather turgid affair against Newcastle (I don’t recall the result), a Groupon £10 deal against West Brom (‘Woy’ got a standing ovation, it was freezing) and two games with Hull, the most memorable of which came in 2009 when Manucho netted a 90th minute (and totally undeserved) winner in front of a neutral end packed with East Yorkshire’s most dedicated.

For the record, he did fuck all else of note in his loan period at Hull….

But this was to be my first for a 3pm KO.

I had some time to kill pre-match so whilst meeting friends in Hammersmith for pre-game sup, opted to divert via Putney Bridge and walk there via the ground.

Fulham is very much restricted by its environment; Craven Cottage is nestled on the bank of the Thames, and seemingly appears from nowhere as you cross the riverside park. It doesn’t feel like a space where a football club should be.

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It is however a classic ground; the Thames makes an excellent backdrop, and it somewhat surreal to have a football ground situated amongst ‘prime’ West London real estate, some of which is probably worth more than their players.

The front facade is impressive; the ‘Cottage’ sits in a corner where the away (and neutral) stand is. Down the adjoining road you are greeted with a red-brick facade. In an era of Lego brick out-of-town super stadia, Craven Cottage is unique and very appealing to the eye.

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Pre-match, Hull City messageboards were full of comments of how friendly a trip Fulham is. Unlike their neighbours slightly further up the District Line, there is no ‘nasty’ element here. Whilst a loyal fanbase is present, this is a club that welcomes all. The ‘neutral’ end is testament to this; day trippers, the curious, away fan overspill and overseas tourists enjoying a day out.

There is little however around the ground for entertainment pre-match (unless jogging down the river is your thing). So to Hammersmith it was for a short pub crawl down the Fulham Palace Road. We started at the Duke of Cornwall, nice and spacious, but the juke box seemed very biased towards Enya, An odd vibe. By far the best place for a drink was the Old Suffolk Punch, which had a great selection of beers on tap, served your beer in an actual glass, and had a friendly atmosphere, with both sets of fans chatting away. We finished off at Southern Belle; unremarkable, plastic glasses, but had Sky Sports on and lots of TVs if that is your thing.

Craven Cottage is roughly a 15 minute walk from both Hammersmith and Putney Bridge tube stations. Inside the concourse is fairly compact (albeit looks spacious). Being an old ground, queues for the food and drink are long. There are small bar areas too, but with big crowds these can become quickly busy.

The view from the away end that day was good; we were situated in the top-left corner of the stand behind the goal, with good sight lines. The stand allows for a good atmosphere to be created in the away end, which that day was boisterous. So far so good!

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The home fans were fairly ‘standard’; made the right noises in the right places, but not a rowdy place to watch football.

The match was scrappy at best, and fairly unremarkable. Which was a shame given Hull had put six past Charlton the previous week without response. The away day form continuing….

It looked like a nailed on 0-0 until in the 80th minute Odubajo was bundled down clumsily in the penalty area. No complaints from the home team or fans. Hernandez duly despatched the penalty. And Hull took three points back to East Yorkshire. It was on this day also that Middlesbrough dropped points, meaning a two-week stay at the top was bagged.

“We. Are. Top of the League. Say we are top of the league…”

Post-match chat centred around this lofty position; it seemed false given the manner of some of the performances. But Fulham are a decent side, and to play badly and still win is the sign of a team (hopefully) going up. Good stuff City. More of the same is needed with the next two league games being away at Burnley and Blackburn.

A good day out at Craven Cottage; a refreshing trip on the fixture list. Friendly atmosphere, decent pubs, and a ground with character. And a great place to pick up three points!

 

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