Could Chris Martin have unlocked the goals for Fulham?



Chris Martin scores Fulham’s second goal against Norwich. Picture: Action Images

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

In four days – 15 to 18 October – Fulham scored more goals than they had since the end of August.

Their victory at Barnsley and the 2-2 home draw with Norwich showed that the team could come from behind – a quality that supporters value highly.

The Norwich result was remarkable because Scott Malone (the hero against Barnsley) gave away two penalties, which allowed the visitors a 2-0 lead at half-time. The second looked rather a harsh decision, and the referee should also have reprimanded Graham Dorrans for taunting the crowd after converting each spot kick. Fulham rallied splendidly after the interval.

But particular praise is deserved by Chris Martin who has the unenviable task of replacing Ross McCormack.

Having scored at Barnsley, Martin seemed altogether more composed and determined than in his previous appearances this season. After he forced his way through the Norwich defence, his shot was deflected by Stefan Johansen beyond the keeper's reach. There was no need for Johansen to look embarrassed. Around 10 minutes later he fed the ball to Martin, who elegantly drove home.

This display by the Scottish international reminded me of one of Bobby Zamora, who after an unpromising start suddenly came good in the unforgettable Europa Cup campaign of 2009-10.

Up until that point Zamora had threatened to join the vast legion of strikers accrued of underperforming in a Fulham jersey.

I have seen so many, starting with Jimmy Jinks in 1948. A few of them doubtless slept easily at night. But most, I am sure, tried hard and could not understand their inability to recapture past glories.

Martin could take heart from Bobby Hamilton, who joined Fulham from Glasgow Rangers 110 years ago. Though he scored three times in his first eight Southern League matches, the crowd expected far more.

To relieve the pressure on him the manager decided for a spell to employ Hamilton in away games only. This unusual tactic restored the Scot's confidence, and he led Fulham to the Championship, which helped the club gain admission to the Football League. In later years, Hamilton became Lord Provost of Elgin. I wonder if Chris Martin has similar ambitions for public life.

After the Norwich draw Fulham travelled to Aston Villa. This might have provided a chance to compare Martin with Ross McCormack. Perhaps fortunately for Fulham, Ross stayed on the bench until the 77th minute. In a match that the club's website deemed tepid, Martin slipped back into anonymity.

A goalless draw would have preserved the team's unbeaten away record. But the point was squandered in a move so familiar – and so dreaded – by the fans. Three minutes after McCormack's arrival Kevin McDonald, well into the opposition's half, passed back to Madl. Goalkeeper Button came out of his area to receive the ball but failed to control it, feeding it instead to Norwich's Albert Adomah. Seconds later the ball was in the Fulham net.

To his credit Jokanovic did not blame Button for the defeat: “I encourage my team to play with the keeper, but today sometimes it was not necessary.”

Certainly the same weekend saw other sweeper-keepers similarly embarrassed, most notably Claudio Bravo of Manchester City.

On the more pressing topic of how to improve Fulham's form Slavisa Jokanovic had little to offer: “I like trying to dominate the game but it's necessary to be solid, strong. Fouling is part of football.”

How many more yellow and red cards does he want? Fulham actually did dominate the game, enjoying two thirds of the possession, but managed just five shots on goal, with not one on target.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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