When does kick off not mean kick off?



Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic. PICTURE: ACTION IMAGES

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

Perhaps I have no right to ask this as I live within walking distance of Craven Cottage – but why do some spectators take their seats long after the game has started? 

True their tardiness does not always cause them to miss anything of importance. The first quarter of the home match against Wigan was singularly uninspired apart from the menace of Wigan striker Omar Bogle. Then a flurry of goals before the interval left Fulham fans disgruntled,

In the 25th minute Sone Aluko after another of his electrifying runs down the wing pulled the ball back for Ayite to score. 

For no obvious reason this caused the Fulham defence to lose all concentration. David Button wandered abstractedly away from his goal, but was back in place to see Scott Malone thump the ball into his own net from Stephen Warnock’s centre. Almost immediately Wigan took the lead when Michael Jacobs was given the freedom of the penalty area.

A fellow sufferer sitting behind me likened the first half to the Fish Slapping Dance from Monty Python. Fulham had been using the pilchards, Wigan the halibut.

The visitors’ keeper had twice been injured and Matt Gilks replaced him for the second half. 

With commendable honesty Jokanovic admitted that his tactical plan was at fault and he revised it in the interval, though for a time Fulham’s comic defending continued. The equaliser surprised everyone, not least the substitute Gilks, who misjudged a long-range daisy-cutter from Denis Odoi. The latter’s celebration was a treat.

Around the hour mark Jokanovic made some adroit substitutions, bringing on Cyriac and Neeskens Kebano. Though Wigan still threatened at times, Fulham looked the better team. Scott Parker’s introduction also worked well and with full time approaching, a 2-2 draw seemed the most probable result. Only seconds remained when Kebano made himself a local hero with a thunderous cross shot that secured victory.

Tuesday night

Anyone missing the opening minutes of Tuesday night’s home match against Nottingham Forest will have been spared seeing yet more disorder in the Whites’ defence with Button and Sigurdsson particularly at fault. The errors culminated in Paijtim Kasami thumping the ball home with the glee that once made him a Fulham favourite.

Jokanovic had reorganised the team with even more emphasis on mid-field but in the early stages we witnessed the familiar uncertainty in defence and timidity in attack. There was a gradual improvement until a sublime movement involving Johansen, Sessegnon and Cairney produced the equaliser. This was followed almost immediately by a superb Rodney Marsh-esque solo effort from Lucas Piazon.

The 2-1 lead disappeared straight after half-time when David Fox’s long ball caught Tim Ream and the defence unprepared, and allowed Ben Brereton to head the equaliser.

With a third of the match remaining Jokanovic sent on Kebano, just as he had on Saturday.

The Forest match, well officiated by James Linington, had been a sporting one until a few lapses near the end. Madl‘s foul earned him a yellow card and gave Ross McCormack a chance to remind us of his accuracy with free kick. Fortunately, he was just off target.

Fulham’s winner came when Kebano challenged goalkeeper Stojkovic for a bouncing ball, which somehow ended in the net. Whether or not the goal is ascribed to him, Kebano had once again helped his team to three vital points.

That’s two victories with six goals scored and four conceded!

Back in 1903 the club’s inaugural match as a first class professional organisation was against Tottenham Hotspur. It ended goalless. Neither side would welcome that result in Sunday’s FA Cup tie, and there is little reason to expect it.

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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