By Morgan Phillips
What is it about the international breaks?
Back in August, Fulham entered the season’s first break as one of the top teams in the Championship. After a disappointing September and October optimism has returned. And now with the second break approaching the Whites are just two points below a play-off place.
Who could have predicted the team's astonishing 5-0 demolition of third placed Huddersfield in late October?
Just seven days previously a similar line-up had blundered to defeat at Aston Villa. It is true that Tomas Kalas returned for the Huddersfield match but not even that fine footballer could have accomplished such a transformation on his own. Nor could he account for it in his post-match interview. Credit must lie with the whole squad and with the coaching staff.
Early in the match Huddersfield did pose a threat, and Ryan Fredericks made one particularly telling interception. Fulham's first two goals were oddly similar. First Johansen's swirling free kick from the left rebounded to Chris Martin, who scored from close quarters. Then Malone's pass from the same flank was deflected to Kalas for his first goal for the club. 2-0 after 34 minutes.
There was time for an astonishing third goal before half-time. Sone Aluko bamboozled the opposition and provided Lucas Piazon with an embarrassingly easy header. In the 63rd minute Aluko's scintillating ball control led to another goal. Only a desperate foul prevented him from scoring, and Chris Martin efficiently converted the resultant penalty. The Hounslow-born Nigerian international also created the fifth goal for Kevin McDonald.
Joy was unconfined. The only supporters to feel slightly dissatisfied were those adherents to imperial measures, who wanted a half dozen. There was no more talk of foul play from Jokanovic. He praised his players' energy, personality and desire. Of course he warned that this was only one match. But what a match!
Fulham's next fixture was a visit to Brentford. They had just beaten Queens Park Rangers so one might have expected their manager Dean Smith to be in optimistic mood. On the contrary: “The confidence I had was certainly dented when I went to Fulham on Saturday and saw them beat Huddersfield 5-0.”
This talk may have been a bluff. Fulham's last appearance at Griffin Park (30 April 2016) had ended in a 3-0 home win. And the latest encounter had been selected for Sky TV, not usually a good omen for Fulham.
The opening half hour featured some inconsequential sparring though the home side. like Huddersfield, were discomfited by the speed and enthusiasm of Sone Aluko. In the 36th minute after a sweeping pass from Johansen Aluko forced the ball past the Brentford keeper. So the man who had made three goals in the previous match was now on the score sheet.
Once again we saw energy, personality and desire. And Aluko still had the energy to make a confident appearance as special guest on TV's Football on Five. Bring on the break!
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.