Still testing



Oliver Norwood of Fulham in action during the Carabao Cup Second Round match against Bristol Rovers

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

Fulham’s first four League matches have yielded just three points, two of them away from home.

The most notable performance was at Reading, on Saturday 12 August, where referee Simon Hopper dismissed Tomas Kalas in the very first minute. Clearly the defender had fouled Modou Barrow, but Tim Ream was covering Kalas, so the red card was unwarranted.

The ten men responded gallantly, with Oliver Norwood a constant threat to the Leeds defence, and David Button saving superbly from Swift.

The home side took the lead on the hour only for Lucas Piazon, substituting for the injured Ayite, to capitalise on a defensive error and blast the equaliser.

Strangely Norwood was omitted for the mid-week visit to Leeds, manager Slavisa Jokanovic giving newcomers Ibrahima Cisse and Aboubakar Kamara their opportunity in the starting line-up.

Cisse came closest to scoring in a hard-fought goalless draw. The game was marred by a serious injury to Lucas Piazon, so the subsequent signing of striker Rui Fonte from Braga looked providential.

In contrast to those away games, the two home appearances have started promisingly but finished drab and disappointing.

In neither match did Tom Cairney look fully recovered from injury. Stefan Johansen was less effective than last season, and Kevin McDonald missed a sitter as well as giving away the goal that earned Sheffield Wednesday three points.

Fulham's midfield held the ball well, but to little effect.  Up front Fonte made chances for others, but when he moved into promising positions he waited in vain for a pass.

I remember a new striker in the early 1970s who suffered a similar baptism and responded by pretending to be a spectator, sarcastically applauding the efforts of his team-mates. Fonte may be too polite for such behaviour.

Ryan Sessegnon, meanwhile, improves with every game; but Sone Aluko has hit a bad patch.

David Button and the back four have done well. Perhaps boss Jokanovic is adopting a more defensive style this campaign. That could bring success but only when combined with a creative midfield, and a striker or two ready to feed on scraps.

This is not a crisis. Last season the team had a poor October yet still reached the play-offs.

Although the Fulham Supporters Trust has rubbished the latest stories that Shahid Khan intends to sell the club, the owner will soon put pressure on Jokanovic if results do not improve.

For his part the manager remains sanguine: “We're not in pre-season, but I'm still testing my players to find the best solution.”

Team building continues and a new left back, Rafa Soares, has come on loan. However Tuesday night's exit from the Carabao Cup will hardly have helped Jokanovic in his quest for a winning team.

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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