By Morgan Phillips
“How is Ryan Fredericks not playing in the Premier League?” demanded the Radio Berkshire commentator.
This is not a question that Fulham fans wish to hear during the transfer window. But it underlines the good impression that the team generally makes on its travels. Nevertheless the ill-tempered draw with QPR and the recent defeat at Reading have left the club six places – and most importantly, nine points – behind the Royals.
I ended my last blog: “The Rangers are on a good run, so Fulham cannot afford to be generous.” But generosity prevailed at the Madjeski and two points were squandered at Loftus Road.
Early in the match an exhilarating run by Sone Aluko ended when he was pushed (somewhat feebly) in the back by Jake Bidwell. Referee Stroud gave a penalty and Chris Martin stepped forward.
Readers will recall the Fulham-QPR match, where Tom Cairney and Aluko both missed from the spot, allowing Rangers a victory. I have also commented upon the predictability of Martin’s penalty kicks.
Sure enough he aimed for the bottom left and Alex Smithies saved (as he did from Tom Cairney in the November match). Then Kevin McDonald of all people with an unnecessary and misdirected back pass gave Ryan Manning a simple goal. Fortunately, the generosity ended there.
At half time Jokanovic reassured his team that their tactics would ultimately succeed. The players responded and the equaliser came in the 74th minute. Cairney’s long range shot was covered by Smithies but Chris Martin crafted a neat deflection.
Oddly this well fought 1-1 draw ended in a mass brawl. Supporters listening to the club’s internet commentary missed Gentleman Jim’s description of the melee because of yet another technical hitch.
On Tuesday night Fulham travelled to Reading to replay the match interrupted by fog. Jokanovic started with three at the back, which allowed Fredericks his glorious forays. Yet just as in the abandoned match the first half was goalless.
The manager rearranged the formation only for Reading to be awarded a penalty almost immediately after the interval. David Button saved but Roy Beerens scored from the rebound.
Reports that thick fog was approaching from the west proved unfounded, and defeat seemed certain until Fulham also won a penalty in the 90th minute. Chris Martin again assumed responsibility but varied his technique only slightly, hitting the ball harder and a bit higher but in the same direction as before. Ali Al-Habsi saved with ease.
All three penalties in these two matches were awarded for minor contact – fouls to be sure but no worse than the wrestling and blocking that are commonplace and usually ignored.
If other referees follow the lead of Keith Stroud and Steve Martin there will be plenty of spot kicks – and Fulham fans will echo Jaap Stam’s words: “Every time we get a penalty I think ‘Oh no, not again’.”
It was dispiriting for Fulham to gain just one point from two matches. But a victory over the top flight’s Hull City in the FA Cup this weekend would be a marvellous tonic, indeed.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.