By Morgan Phillips
Fulham could not dwell on the disappointment of the FA Cup defeat as they faced two away games in the next six days.
At Bristol City on Wednesday (22 February) they faced a team desperate to avoid the relegation zone. Mercifully Tammy Abraham, who tormented Fulham at the Cottage back in September, was absent through injury.
City still managed a couple of assaults on Button’s goal before the 16th minute when an intricate Fulham move of ten passes led to Lucas Piazon opening the scoring. Neither defence looked entirely secure but there were no more goals in the remainder of the half.
Shortly after half-time the game was settled in circumstances that infuriated the home supporters. Instead of clearing the ball the City defenders tried a close passing movement in and around the penalty area, which allowed Floyd Ayite to intercept and set up his captain for Fulham’s second goal.
On the following Saturday, the Whites visited Cardiff – who had won four of their previous five games.
Stefan Johansen, often praised in my blogs, played a key part in this match. After some early Cardiff pressure Stefan gathered the ball near the half-way line and sped through the home defence to shoot past Allan McGregor. Unfortunately, the Norwegian international was also responsible for the equaliser. He missed another of those unnecessary back passes, allowing the talented Kenneth Zohore a clear sight of goal.
City’s manager Neil Warnock, possibly intoxicated by the renewal of his contract, subsequently told the press: “If we’d been four up at halftime I don’t think anyone would have complained.”
For what they are worth, statistics suggest otherwise. In the whole match Fulham had 72 per cent of the possession and six shots on target – only two fewer than Cardiff.
Zohore gave Cardiff the lead in the 56th minute after outthinking Tim Ream but some ten minutes later Tom Cairney’s trickery enabled Neeskens Kebano to save a point. Neeskens was on the pitch because Lucas Piazon in committing a foul somehow emerged with a broken jaw, Apparently he was ‘taking one for the team’ – a tiresome cliché and a painful experience for Lucas.
Stefan Johansen could have scored the winner in the dying seconds but the 2-2 result was fair.
Warnock was not the only manager celebrating an extended contract I was surprised last Thursday (23 February) to receive two notices from Fulham FC within an hour!
Both, I feel, demonstrate a positive attitude from the club. Slavisa Jokanovic’s contract has been extended until 2019 and Tony Khan, the Chairman’s son has become the club’s vice-chairman and director of football operations, assisted by Brian Talbot and Craig Kline.
Whether or not Fulham reach the playoffs a new and even better team will be needed next season. Khan and Jokanovic can work together to achieve this.
The club is certainly moving forward, as is evidenced by the naming of the Fulham FC Foundation as the London Community Club of the Year.
Remarkably four of the Whites’ five League matches in March will be played at home.
There is a five-point gap between Sheffield Wednesday in sixth place and Fulham in seventh.
A home victory over Preston next Saturday is vital, especially as Simon Grayson’s team are only one point behind us. Fulham v Preston should be an exciting match and a bargain for young fans, who can gain admission for £1.
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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