Hodgson hits out at boo-boys

A SECOND-HALF recovery capped by Brede Hangeland’s headed winner means Fulham will head to Germany to face Wolfsburg in Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg lifted by victory.

Manager Roy Hodgson, though, fears his side’s remarkable achievements during a thrilling, marathon campaign – this was Fulham’s 53rd game of the season – may be creating unrealistic expectations on the part of the club’s supporters.

Clearly still feeling the effects of Thursday night’s exertions when they secured a 2-1 first leg advantage over the German champions, Fulham struggled to establish their normal momentum and reached the interval trailing to Jason Scotland’s 34th minute goal, the striker’s first in the Premier League since his move to Wigan from Swansea last summer.

That triggered a chorus of boos, some directed at referee Mark Clattenburg, others apparently directed at the home players.

The second period saw a different Fulham, with Hodgson’s side looking more like their normal selves and boosting confidence that they can hold onto their lead when they return to action against Wolfsburg in midweek. The manager, though, revealed his frustration that his side had not been given more leeway by their own supporters.

“The crowd has been fantastic but you’re just hoping sometimes people will show some degree of understanding for the level of difficulty your team is facing,” he said. “We were facing a team who have prepared all week for this game, it’s a vital game for them, they’re in a relegation battle. But still we’ve shown enough, we’ve dug deep and we’ve got another famous victory. So I’ve got to say this is one of the happiest moments I’ve had at Fulham because when everyone expects you to lose, when everything that’s being written says you’re not going to do it today and you do do it, then that’s when you deserve a pat on the back.

“It was the people behind me, the more executive types. I’m just trying to remind fans we do try to give them everything but we won’t in all the games. This was our 53rd game and sooner or later there will be a time when today’s first half performance continues for 90 minutes. It’s written in the stars. No team can go on and on.

“I just feel the players don’t deserve people shouting ‘wake up’. It’s not a case of waking up, it’s a case of getting tired legs going again in a very tough game.”

Hodgson knows his side will falter at some point but correctly judges this season to have been a success no matter what the outcome on Thursday night.

Fulham’s hopes of adding Wolfsburg to their list of notable European scalps – Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk have already been eliminated from the competition by Hodgson’s side – will be boosted by the return of Bobby Zamora who sat out yesterday’s game with an achilles tendon injury.

Zamora was the only absentee from last Thursday’s game ensuring there will be no repeat of West Ham’s complaint about the Cottagers fielding a weakened team. Ironically it is the Hammers who will benefit from this result with Fulham’s victory leaving Wigan just three points ahead of Gianfranco Zola’s side.

Latics manager Roberto Martinez claimed his side were the architects of their own misfortune, with Paul Scharner at fault in the build-up to Stefano Okaka’s equaliser while the visitors marking was non-existent when Hangeland headed home from Damien Duff’s corner in the 58th minute.

“We’ve got two home games coming up and the home form will be vital,” said the manager. “It’s going to be an exciting run-in.”

MATCH RATING: ** – Fulham’s fatigue meant this game was always going to pale in comparison to many other games at Craven Cottage this season.

REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) 6 – Correctly judged a series of early home claims for a penalty to be wildly optimistic but missed an obvious trip from Titus Bramble on Clint Dempsey late on.

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