By Morgan Phillips
In my previous blog I mused about the prospects for Fulham visit to Hillsborough on Sunday 7 May: “Jokanovic hopes to reduce the risk of injuries and fatigue while maintain the momentum. Sunday’s match will matter more to Sheffield Wednesday than to Fulham but it would be a morale booster for the Whites to extend their unbeaten run to six matches.”
Could there possibly have been a better outcome? Despite conceding an early goal Fulham won a convincing 2-1 victory, while a much altered Sheffield Wednesday fell from third to fourth and had Mario Malias sent off.
Jokanovic had fielded a strong side, giving Chris Martin, Dennis Odoi and Neeskens Kebano their chance to earn a Semi Final call-up. After a slip by Tomas Kalas had allowed Sam Winnall to score for Wednesday, Odoi crossed from the right and Kebano hit a confident equaliser through a knot of defenders.
Referee Graham Scot saw Malias’s foul on Aluko for what it was, wild and peevish, and rightly dismissed him. This gave Fulham a second-half advantage, and they attacked constantly.
Scott Malone came closest to scoring until the 79th minute when the Wednesday defenders appeared to have prevented Lucas Piazon’s looping free kick from crossing the line, The Fulham players appealed and the referee agreed that the goal was valid. It looked as if the ball had ben deflected by defender David Jones, but Kebano was eventually confirmed as the scorer.
Because of Sunday’s results Fulham face Reading in the first semi- final and Huddersfield entertain Sheffield Wednesday, an arrangement that suits all the travelling supporters.
Fulham have beaten each of their fellow semi-finalists this season.
On the 3 December Reading suffered a 5-0 defeat at the Cottage, partly because of an own goal and a sending off, and partly because Martin and Johansen were in top form. Seven weeks later Martin was off his best, especially when taking spot kicks. Losing 1-0 at Reading, Fulham were awarded a penalty just before full time. The Scottish striker’s technique was far too predictable to defeat Al-Habsi.
The club has a dismaying record in play-offs but Jokanovic and his team have shown great resolution this season.
They have done splendidly, finishing only one point behind Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield. The next few days could witness the Londoners’ triumph. We shall know more by midnight on Tuesday.
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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