By Morgan Phillips
Not long ago I complimented FFC’s Casper Stylsvig’s initiative of free match tickets ‘so you can show your friends and family what they’re missing’.
One option was the home match against Bristol City on 24 September, a game that proved painful viewing for anyone sympathetic to Fulham.
Neutrals will have enjoyed the remarkable skills of Tammy Abraham, the City striker who had helped his team to League Cup victory three nights previously and was once again perplexing the Fulham defence.
Slavisa Jokanovic's short passing game requires, as he acknowledges, an end result. Bristol City waited till the ball reached the half-way line then pounced upon the first mistake, sending their speedy forwards into the undefended gaps. Their four goals were outstanding, but the home defence, Button excluded, looked sadly inadequate.
It is regrettable – yet unsurprising – that McCormack and Dembele are so sorely missed in attack. Far more troubling is the swift decline of the defence from its August solidity.
Prehistoric attempts to clobber Tammy Abraham achieved nothing, and a less tolerant referee than Mr Bankes would have reacted more severely. Jokanovic saved Scott Parker from a red card by taking him off but the ref's patience eventually expired and Kevin McDonald's lunge, probably no worse than some other fouls by both sides, led to his dismissal. Of Fulham's attack there is little to say, though Sone Aluko did once come close to scoring.
After this debacle Fulham redeemed themselves by gaining a point at Nottingham Forest. In the second half two familiar names Pajtim Kasami and Nicklas Bendtner combined to put the home team ahead but Tom Cairney equalised. Matt Smith's apparent winner was disallowed, a misfortune that had earlier befallen an effort by Aluko. The away team created plenty of opportunities but still lacked a reliable marksman.
After a barren September, QPR kicked off October with a visit to the Cottage. This fixture has reliably produced goals and excitement, and often a result in Fulham's favour. But on this occasion little went right for the home side.
The match started at 12.45 and latecomers blocked my view of the fourth minute incident for which Fulham were awarded a penalty. I had no problem seeing Tom Cairney's spot kick; to call it a miss would be unfair on the Rangers’ keeper but it was certainly a lost opportunity. Around a quarter of an hour later QPR took the lead.
Fulham rallied and could have equalised almost immediately. Faced with an open goal Lucas Piazon sidefooted to Chris Martin. The Scot, not anticipating this unselfish act, scuffed the ball wide.
Tim Ream eventually brought the scores level and Fulham looked the better team in the second half only for Idrissa Sylla to restore Rangers' lead in the dying minutes. Fulham then won a second penalty and with Cairney off the pitch Sone Aluko stepped forward.
His fierce shot was beyond the goalie's reach but the ball hit the upright and bounced clear. Supporters were furious, Aluko desolate. For what it is worth, Ross McCormack missed a penalty for Aston Villa later the same day.
Fulham's match was preceded by the unveiling of George Cohen's statue, a richly deserved tribute paid for by fans with a generous addition from Shahid Khan. The club's chairman spoke at the event, which was attended by Roy Hodgson and many ex-players.
The statue, clearly visible from the adjoining river sidewalk, is less dramatic than the now familiar effigy of Johnny Haynes. Calmness, intelligence and reliability made George a World Cup winner but they present a real challenge for a sculptor. If you prefer a more active image, take a look at the souvenir tee-shirt available from the Fulham shop!
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.