Premier League

Jol: Fulham will return to form

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Sun, 09 Dec 2012 16:43:00

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini played down the significance of a last-gasp derby defeat that saw fierce rivals United moved six points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Robin van Persie scored a stoppage-time winner to give Sir Alex Ferguson's side a 3-2 victory at the Etihad Stadium, ending the defending champions' unbeaten start to the season.

United, who surrendered a 2-0 lead before snatching back all three points at the death, now head into the Christmas period with an imposing advantage but Mancini remains bullish over his side's chances of retaining the title.

"For 20 minutes they didn't touch the ball and the first chance they got, they scored a goal," Mancini said.

"We recovered very well and we dominated the second half. We wanted to win the game and we had chances.

"We have showed we are a really strong team and we can win this title again. We can't win always. There is a moment when you lose at home and it happened today. But the season is a long one.

"We won the league with the last touch of the ball last year. But we didn't deserve to lose this game. We played very well."

Sunday's defeat was City's first home loss in the league since a reversal against Everton in December 2010 and came at the end of a week that saw them crash out of the Champions League with the worst haul of any English club in the competition's history.

The Perth Saints did make it 11 games unbeaten on their visits to St Mirren but the circumstances surrounding the 1-1 draw made it feel more like a victory after being reduced to nine men.

After making the perfect start, when captain Murray Davidson powered in a header, the visitors were put under immense pressure as the Paisley side chased their third consecutive home win.

The Perth men did not help their cause when they had two players sent off.

Stevie Anderson was first to go shortly before half-time when he tripped Lewis Guy and denied him a goalscoring opportunity.

The visitors faced a second half onslaught and then picked up a second red car.

Chris Millar, already on a yellow, tripped John McGinn to collect a second booking and hand the home side a two-man advantage with over 20 minutes remaining.

Danny Lennon's men took less than a minute to grab the equaliser despite the best efforts of Alan Mannus.

The St Johnstone keeper did superbly to parry a fierce shot from Kenny McLean but was beaten as 18- year-old Paul Dummett lashed home his first senior goal.

It was a rearguard action after that and the heroes for St Johnstone were all at the back with Mannus producing a couple of incredible saves and Frazer Wright's superb goal line clearance denying Steven Thompson a winner five minutes from time.

With Steve Lomas banned from the touchline it was left to St Johnstone assistant boss Tommy Wright to manage the dugout and reflect on his team's determination to hang on for a point.

A relieved and delighted Wright admitted: "You would be proud of any team that's down to nine men and holds on to get a result - it was truly magnificent.

"They put their bodies on the line and worked extremely hard and to keep them down to one goal. I was really proud of them all."

The assistant boss shared the success across his team despite Mannus' heroics in the last 20 minutes.

"Our keeper's done really well and was unlucky at the goal after a great save, but he would be the first to admit that the guys in front of him have done a terrific job.

"They did everything they could to get a winner but every one of our players stood up and defended really well.

"It was the busiest game I've had here," confessed Mannus, who made two outstanding saves to deny John McGinn and McLean.

"But the guys in front of me were brilliant as we hung on, especially in the four minutes added on time."

Not surprisingly St Mirren boss Danny Lennon saw it as two points dropped, particularly on the balance of play and chances created - even when St Johnston had 11 players.

It was with a mixture of feelings that Lennon looked back on an absorbing 90 minutes.

He said: "It is definitely two points dropped. We showed a fantastic tempo from the start and I was disappointed to go one down so early.

"But we always took the game forward even when they had 11 and more when they went down to nine.

"We were on the front foot and created a number of opportunities but their keeper has had some fantastic saves.

"We have to be absolutely ruthless in front of goal and you can't expect to give up chances like that and win games. It was an absolute disservice to the fans not to win a game like that."

Lennon, though, took some positives from the game.

"We need to be composed and hitting the target which we've not done in our last three or four games.

"The flip side is the chances we are creating and the bodies are hungry enough to get on them, we just need to work a little bit harder and finish these chances off. "

St Johnstone have little time to rest and have to do without Stevie Anderson for their Scottish Cup tie with Cowdenbeath on Monday night after the original game was postponed due to bad weather.

Foran forced home David Raven's 76th-minute cross to double Caley Thistle's lead and put the game beyond a Hibs team lacking inspiration at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, where Caley ran out 3-0 winners.

Ross Draper headed Inverness in front from Graeme Shinnie's free-kick 13 minutes into an otherwise uneventful first half.

But Inverness dominated more as the game progressed, looking sharper in possession and more assured in defence than their opponents.

Billy McKay rounded off a deserved win with the goal of the game three minutes from time when he headed home Aaron Doran's cross after earlier bringing the winger into play.

Inverness leapfrogged Hibs and stayed three points behind Celtic with their third consecutive SPL win - the previous victories came at Celtic Park and Aberdeen - and the club swept the boards in the Clydesdale Bank monthly awards with McKay, Doran and manager Terry Butcher taking the acclaim.

Inverness have set high standards and Foran admits even beating second-placed Hibs at half-time fell short.

"The first half there was nothing in it," he said. "I thought we had that little more fight. "It was a gritty game, I didn't enjoy the first half at all. But we went in 1-0 up and that shows what we are used to.

"We are playing some brilliant football and I'm loving it.

"The second half we played some very, very good football.

"We were catching them on the break, Aaron Doran and Andrew Shinnie were getting in behind them down the sides.

"We stepped it up and it was well deserved. I didn't think Hibs had an answer."

Inverness follow their top-three clash with a Highland derby on Tuesday, with a William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round clash at Kilmarnock on offer for the winners when Ross County make the short trip.

"We have played quite a few big games going into this one," Foran said. "It gives us a wee advantage.

"We went to Parkhead and Pittodrie, they were big games, and we won them. This was a big game and we won it.

"We are used to the big occasions. We have to go out there and enjoy ourselves and let our football do the talking."

While Foran had to throw himself in front of Alan Maybury to net the second, both Draper and McKay scored from free headers.

Hibs slipped to fourth and failed to match their opponents as they had in their tight cup win over Hearts the previous weekend.

"We are conceding too many goals away from home and we have to look at that," manager Pat Fenlon said. "The third goal is a cross in the box and the smallest man on the park heads home.

"The first goal we gave the ball away cheaply in midfield, I know it then came from a free-kick.

"There were a lot of little things like that that we did quite well last week.

"Our preparation and concentration levels have to be better when we come on the road."

After starting the season brightly despite a number of high-profile departures, the Cottagers' lack of squad depth has been brought into sharp focus.

The 1-0 defeat of Aston Villa in mid-October was the west Londoners' last victory, meaning they face Newcastle on Monday without a win in seven attempts.

Fulham are also two minutes shy of going a full five hours without scoring and Jol knows his side need a morale-boosting three points.

"I don't think it was a big problem before the Sunderland game (where Fulham lost 3-1) so for us failure and success is an unbelievably thin line," the Dutchman said.

"We had a loss after that against Stoke, then we had a draw at Chelsea and lost against Spurs so everything happened in two weeks.

"We have to pick up ourselves and pick up some points.

"Even in the first half against Spurs we had three or four chances - more chance than they had, more attempts on goal.

"Against Sunderland, for example, before Brede Hangeland's red card, I thought we were the better team.

"That was probably the biggest disappointment because those three points would have given us 20 points.

"It all started on that day and we got injuries to Bryan Ruiz and Alex Kacaniklic so after that we had to change things and I feel we are good enough to come up with a solution."

Jol can welcome Hangeland and Kacaniklic back on Monday from suspension and injury respectively, although Ruiz remains sidelined after suffering setback in his recovery from a hamstring complaint.

Veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is set to start again on Monday despite some questioning his display in the 3-0 defeat to Tottenham, where he was at fault for Sandro's opener.

"It is always the same," Jol said. "Three weeks ago we were all very happy at Fulham and two weeks later the situation totally changes.

"It is the same with goalkeepers. You make one mistake and everyone will doubt your quality and talk about it, but he is strong enough.

"He is a very good goalkeeper. He saved a lot of points for us so he will be back."

Jol has also been impressed by Schwarzer's opposite number on Monday, Tim Krul.

The 24-year-old has established himself as Newcastle's first-choice goalkeeper and become a regular for Holland.

"He is good and young," Jol said of his countryman. "It will be the first time a guy like him is a regular in the national team.

"Normally we have they likes of Hans van Breukelen and Edwin van der Sar - quite old goalkeepers.

"Van der Sar probably had his breakthrough while he was here at Fulham when he was 30 or something.

"Krul is a big talent, good goalkeeper, but we've got the other guy at Swansea, Michel Vorm. He is very talented, maybe one of the most talented ones.

"Krul is versatile, big but don't forget that we've got one of the best in Europe, Maarten Stekelenburg. I had him at Ajax and he is a good goalkeeper."

Another player Jol had during his time as Ajax manager was Vurnon Anita, who has become an increasingly important player at Newcastle since his summer arrival.

"He is a number four, he is a holding midfield player," Jol said. "I can remember going there and he didn't play. I had a problem at left-back so played him there.

"After a couple of months he played in the national team, so he is very versatile.

"He can play left-back and right-back but his best position is probably the number four position.

"As you well know, it is not easy for players who come from foreign countries to settle straight away and that is why he needed a couple of months."

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