Hopes for the new season abound at Craven Cottage



L-R: Denis Odoi, Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

After Fulham’s exhilarating performance last season all supporters will be looking forward to the new season. In some ways it has already started. July saw seven fixtures against an intriguing range of opponents.

The first match, against Polish team Piost Gliwice on 5 July before a 'crowd' of several, gave the players (all 18 of them) a chance to get back into action. Marcelo Djalo and Steven Sessegon were notable new signings. Though the result was unimportant, how refreshing that Fulham should win with a penalty after George Williams was barged off the ball. Neeskens Kebano showed his keenness to take on the responsibility for spot kicks. If he gets the job I hope he does not invariably aim for the bottom right hand corner.

A much stronger side was sent out against the Czechs FC Zlin. From inside his own half Tom Cairney's pass split the opposing defence allowing Sone Aluko to beat the luckless keeper. In the second half Fulham increased their lead when Luca de la Torre's left foot curler found the net. 2-0 ahead with 18 minutes to go the Whites should have learned their lessons but Zlin levelled the score with an ease that will not have pleased  Fulham's chief coach Slavisa Jokanovic.

Three days later the club welcomed QPR's Under 23 side to Motspur Park. The new midfielder Ibrahima Cisse made an immediate impact, his powerful shot embarrassing the Rangers keeper Dieng. After the visitors equalised, Aluko once again was well placed to score, from a Johansen pass this time. Lasse Vigen Christensen made a goal for Matt O'Riley and Johansen's free kick again discomfited Dieng. With a three goal advantage Fulham could afford to concede in the closing minutes of the game. Shortly after the match it was announced that Lasse Vigen was returning to Denmark after five eventful years at the Cottage.

A match against Chelsea's first team provided a reality check if nothing else.  Willian's hat-trick helped the Blues to a 5-1 halftime lead. After the interval. Chelsea's second string took over and could only manage three more goals, making a final score of 8-2. Kevin McDonald's cross was deflected into the net for Fulham's first (20th minute) and Johansen scored a penalty in the 54th minute.

The third local derby, against West Ham, involved a trip to Graz in Austria. The Hammers won – but by a much narrower margin. David Button must have wondered why Manuel Lanzini was allowed such a clear view of goal for West Ham's first but the keeper was to blame for the second, Ashley Fletcher easily dispossessing him. Jokanovic is wedded to the sweeper/keeper system so we can expect similar mishaps this season. Cauley Woodrow helped Ryan Sessegnon's shot over the line to deny West Ham a clear victory.

In Germany Aytac Sulu, captain of newly SV Darmstadt 98, gave away a goal by an injudicious back pass (once again the sweeper/keeper ploy misfired) but he equalised with a diving header just before the interval. After Ryan Fredericks cut in from the right to score with his left foot, Darmstadt exploited some lazy defending to earn a 2-2 draw.

For the last of the pre-season friendlies, Fulham faced Wolfsburg at the Cottage. The Germans scored what Jokanovic termed 'a very cheap Championship goal' and went on to enjoy a 3-0 victory, not the best morale-booster for the home side.

Now the serious business begins. The Championship will be every bit as challenging as before but there are hopeful signs.

Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon and indeed even Jokanovic himself have not been not lured away. Lucas Piazon and Tomas Kalas are available once more. While it is premature to comment on the recent signings they may well be adequate replacements for Parker and Malone. Perhaps Cauley Woodrow will finally get the chance to establish himself?

Anyway the transfer window is still open... See you next Saturday!

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