Quality squad has character to reach playoffs and beyond

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Fulham’s Tom Cairney scores from the penalty spot. PICTURE: ACTION IMAGES


Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

We shall soon know whether Fulham’s Good Friday’s visit to Norwich was a milestone on the way to promotion. It was unquestionably a magnificent victory.

Stefan Johansen continued his productive spell, raising Fulham’s spirits with a goal in the fifth minute. Norwich, who had scored seven in their previous outing, were rarely accurate enough even to achieve a first-half equaliser. 

Just before the interval the home side received an unexpected fillip when the referee dismissed Chris Martin. It is unclear whether Martin acted foolishly or was the victim of the officials’ error. 

According to Derek Davis of the Times ‘his elbow into the face of Mitchell Dijks looked clear cut’. The three match suspension was inevitable.

It was certainly foolish for Ryan Bennett, Norwich’s second half substitute, to pull down Tomas Kalas in the area. Perhaps he had heard about Fulham’s inability to score from the spot. A confident Tom Cairney gave the supporters cause to sing their rarely heard ditty: “We scored a penalty”.

Another Norwich substitute, Cameron Jerome, headed an elegant goal on 76 minutes but Fulham restored their two-goal advantage just before the end. On the left wing, surrounded by six defenders, Lucas Piazon and Floyd Ayite gave a masterclass in short passing that led to Ayite walking the ball into the net. Laptop loudspeakers across the planet trembled as Gentleman Jim and his fellow commentator shrieked their love for Fulham. 

I was tempted to turn down the volume before viewing the Easter Monday highlights, as the Villa game was almost as exciting. 

This time it was the opposition that suffered a first half red card, when Fulham were already a goal ahead. From a Fredericks centre Ryan Sessegnon had scored at the second attempt. Fredericks was also involved in the sending off. Jonathan Kodija clearly retaliated after a clash with the Fulham defender, though in a higher profile match I suspect that the incident would have received a lesser punishment. Fredericks also saved a certain goal just before half-time.

After the interval, Aston Villa came to life with a magnificent strike from Jack Grealish. Floyd Ayite and Sone Aluko combined to restore the lead and in the 79th minute Johansen enabled substitute Kebano to seal the victory.

This result moved Fulham up to sixth in the table, not at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday but of Leeds United. Three matches remain – Huddersfield away, Brentford home and a grand finale at Hillsborough. However daunting the schedule, Fulham know that three good performances can secure entry to the playoffs.

At half-time on Monday Leroy Rosenior reminisced about playing at the Cottage ‘a hundred years ago’. 

My memory does not quite extend that far – I have just embarked on my 69th year of watching Fulham – but I do recall 1948-49 when the three last games of the season secured the Second Division Championship. A slightly fortuitous win over Brentford, a draw at White Hart Lane and a glorious triumph over West Ham were sufficient. 

The present squad has the quality and the character to reach the playoffs… and maybe beyond.

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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