By Morgan Phillips
After the excitement of the FA Cup Fulham resumed the more prosaic business of visiting Burton Albion and then Birmingham City in search of Championship points to secure a place in the playoffs.
The first half of the Burton match provided little entertainment though Fulham’s wild shooting did amuse the home crowd.
Maybe Slavisa Jokanovic issued a reprimand at the interval, for immediately afterwards his team took the lead. Sone Aluko’s mazy run should have been blocked but he managed to get the ball to Tom Cairney, who provided Johansen with another excellent goal. Scott Malone swooped down the left wing to seal a comfortable 2-0 win.
For the Birmingham Mail, reporter Brian Dick listed: “Five reasons why Birmingham City WILL defeat Fulham on Saturday”. The first was the law of the old boys – ‘Players always score against their former teams’. Step forward, Kerim Frei. The second reason invoked the law of averages – ‘Obviously Birmingham City are going to win a game of football at some point’.
I did not need to read the other three. The odds were already against us.
In the event Frei stayed on the bench, but manager Zola still achieved his first victory. Fulham’s performance lacked conviction even before the 69th minute when Ryan Fredericks stepped out of character to earn a red card. The depleted defense was then penetrated by Lukas Jutkiewicz (another of Brian Dick’s five reasons). Floyd Ayite could have scored a late equaliser but his accuracy was no better than that of his team mates.
Doubtless the players are suffering from fatigue. With 17 further League matches, plus (I hope…) two or more FA Cup games, their self-belief must be restored.
On the same day as the Birmingham match, Everton’s Ross Barkley was criticised for celebrating his goal against Bournemouth even before the ball had crossed the line. However, Ian Wright on Match of the Day was impressed: “He’s done brilliantly. And the celebration, I like that.”
It was not unique. Years before Barkley was born, Fulham’s Paul Parker performed a similar action, when his solo run against Chesterfield (11 April 1987) left him facing an open goal. He did not realise that a Chesterfield defender was bearing down, but his celebration (and that of the ball boy) was followed by the ball entering the net.
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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