By Morgan Phillips
The club’s official report of Fulham’s exhilarating contest with Newcastle on a warm Friday evening spoke of ‘a quiet first half’. There was nothing quiet about the Hammersmith End where the fans gave an ear splitting welcome to the new Whites and the returning favourites. The players responded with a performance of which each one could be proud.
As a goalkeeper David Button is renowned for his thoughtful distribution of the ball (with his hands anyway). His eagerness does take him out of the penalty area, as Real Betis noted, but on his home debut Newcastle’s only long shot found him safely on his line.
The back four (Odoi, Kalas, Malone, Madl) and midfielders McDonald and Tunnicliffe stifled the visiting attack though Denis Odoi's foul at the edge of the penalty area and Ryan Tunnicliffe's blatant handball provided two scary moments in the first period. To be fair Newcastle were fortunate when Grant Hanley missed the ball and connected with Aluko's back foot, robbing him of a scoring opportunity.
Having lost Ross McCormack to the Villa, Jokanovic used Smith as a lone striker, supported by Cairney, Aluko and Ayite. Sone Aluko's efforts notwithstanding, Fulham seemed no more likely than Newcastle to open the scoring.
Then Matt Smith executed a textbook header from Tom Cairney's corner kick, and the home side were ahead, just before half-time. 'Fulham top of the League,' sang the fans and theoretically the goal did put the Whites at the top and Newcastle at the bottom of an otherwise alphabetical table.
Benitez's men returned to the field with greater determination, and Button was called on to make his first real save. Fulham still impressed with Odoi cheekily bamboozling Paul Dummett, who was one of several visiting players to lose self-control.
To round off a splendid evening Fulham supporters sang a tribute to the wonderful Brede Hangeland, whose retirement had just been announced. I did not hear 'Happy Days Are Here Again' but it might not have been inappropriate.
A completely different eleven took the field at Orient for the League Cup tie. After Matt Smith's winner against Newcastle, Cauley Woodrow seized his chance to impress with two second half goals. A 3-0 lead looked impregnable but Fulham conceded twice in the final 20 minutes – some habits die hard.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.