By Morgan Phillips
After two setbacks in the Championship, Fulham supporters needed a tonic and the 4-1 FA Cup victory was just that. In a match where the whole team excelled it would be wrong to dwell too long on any individual but the Chris Martin saga is unavoidable.
Back in September the Fulham website announced: “Two minutes before the transfer market closed on the 31 August 2015 the club confirmed the signing of Chris Martin on a season-long loan.”
Presumably the lateness of the hour accounted for the bizarre terms of the contract. Fulham paid some money upfront and had to decide by the following January whether to buy Martin outright. If the club chose not to, the player would still remain at Fulham for the rest of the season – no doubt feeling disgruntled and undervalued.
We have now seen the consequences. In December, Martin indicated that he wanted an immediate return to Derby and he seemingly refused to play in Fulham’s colours. Somehow Jokanovic overcame his resistance. Then we heard that the Scottish international had extended his contract with Derby to 2020, stating: “I am thankful that the board only allowed the move on a temporary basis because I didn’t want to leave Derby and my family is settled in the area.”
Fair enough. Richard Stearman, under contract at Fulham, clearly feels happier when playing on loan for his native Wolverhampton, and no-one blames him for that. Regrettably Martin went on to praise the County and its new manager Steve McLaren without offering a word of thanks to Fulham or the fans who supported him when he was struggling to score goals.
His appearance on Sunday in the team to meet Hull was booed by a minority of supporters and the hostility continued until he left the field in the 83rd minute. He responded with a performance that typified his season so far. Fairly anonymous for almost an hour, he turned the match by scoring one goal and making another.
Fulham led at half-time through a smart shot from Sone Aluko. The lead was just about deserved though a comic blunder by Marcus Bettinelli would have led to a goal but for the intervention of Tomas Kalas.
The visitors did equalise after the interval when Goebel Evandro outwitted Bettinelli and Sessegnon. The latter more than compensated when his wizardry presented Chris Martin with a simple goal. Martin not only acknowledged his assistance, but also provided Sessegnon with Fulham’s third. Not to be left out, Cairney and Johansen combined to make the score 4-1.
The drama was not complete. Kalas tripped Andrew Robertson in the area, giving Abel Hernandez the chance to score from the spot. Bettinelli saved his shot only to incur another penalty when he prevented Hernandez from following up. The Uruguayan’s second attempt was much fiercer but the goalkeeper deflected it over the bar. I cannot recall seeing such a double save from consecutive penalties.
This was a wonderful FA Cup tie and the club and its supporters have been rewarded with a home tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
Meanwhile, the team must make up for ground lost in the Championship race. With strikers Woodrow and Humphrys out on loan and Matt Smith signing for QPR, much will depend on Chris Martin and newcomer Gohi Cyriac from KV Oostende.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.