Attractive football lacks clinical finishing



Lewis Baker of Middlesbrough holds off the challenge of Fulham's Neeskens Kebano. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

Slavisa Jokanovic was far from satisfied by his team’s 2-1 home victory over Hull City.

He said: “We showed some quality but to be a more serious and competitive team we must improve.”

He was particularly concerned about missed chances. Ryan Sessegnon and his colleagues were almost as profligate as Hull, who have yet to adapt to the Championship.  Jokanovic, an advocate of the passing game, must have enjoyed Fulham's first goal, where Ream, Sessegnon, Kebano and Ojo combined to give Floyd Ayite a perfect opportunity.

After Hull had equalised, Fulham secured three points with a goal that combined artistry (Fredericks's cross from the right) with comedy (Floyd Ayite attempting a spectacular scissors kick and failing to make contact). Fortunately Stefan Johansen reacted quickly and sent the ball just under the bar.

It was a pity that our first home win should have been followed by our first away defeat. The trip to Burton Albion did not look too daunting but so many times Fulham have succumbed to teams (like Birmingham last season) that have almost forgotten how to win. Certainly the Albion benefitted from an undeserved penalty kick, but the visitors should have scored more than one goal (Oliver Norwood's daisy-cutter). No-one could accuse Fulham of not trying. Perhaps Sheyi Ojo was trying too hard. Twice he came close, hitting the crossbar once and then being caught offside.

The last home match of September brought Middlesbrough to the Cottage. It followed the disconcerting pattern of a scrappy first half, then Fulham taking the lead only to yield two points in the dying minutes. Neither team played well. The Whites were slightly superior in the first half because Ryan Sessegnon and others provided decent chances, which were wasted. 
Oliver Norwood was the home player who looked most capable of scoring. Middlesbrough provided less threat and it was odd to see the Whites resorting to petty fouls, especially after the Burton penalty incident.

Kevin McDonald makes an excellent skipper but the team continues to suffer from the absence of Tom Cairney in mid-field. A further setback was the 42nd minute mishap that left Floyd Ayite unable to continue. He was replaced by Kebano but it was the later introduction of Abubakar Kamara that proved most effective.

Fulham's best movement of the match ended with Rui Fonte creating an open goal for AK. Sadly over eagerness led him to shoot high and wide. This was soon forgotten because in the 70th minute Sessegnon centred and Kamara, looking much taller than his quoted 177cm, elegantly headed under the crossbar.

Then came the almost inevitable lapse of concentration. The ball bounced around the Fulham penalty area until Cyrus Christie equalised. The 1-1 result, and the way in which it came about, duplicated the home matches against Norwich and Cardiff. The difference is that the manager has begun to feel the pressure: “People say, where is plan B, C and D but I don't believe these are better than plan A, and in this moment we are going to try and follow in this style.”

As I have mentioned before, Jokanovic's football is attractive to watch but needs clinical finishing to be effective. Oliver Norwood is finding his length, while Sessegnon, Ojo and Kamara must temper their enthusiasm with a bit of calmness in front of goal. There may not be a need for Plan B.

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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