By Morgan Phillips
The international break is over and football managers are counting the cost.
For the visit of Championship leaders Cardiff City to Craven Cottage last weekend, Whites boss Slavisa Jokanovic was compelled by injuries to omit his four potential goal scorers (Cairney, Fonte, Kebano and Ojo).
Fortunately, Floyd Ayite had recovered from injury, and the newly arrived Yohan Mollo made his debut on the right wing. While Kevin McDonald captained the side in Cairney's absence.
Initially, Cardiff threatened to run riot – but Kalas and Ream snuffed out the danger. Their mutual understanding was so good that when one slipped up the other would save the situation. The highlight of a patchy first half was a double save by the visitors' keeper Neil Etheridge, who fisted out Johansen's long range effort and blocked Ayite's follow up.
Etheridge graduated from Fulham's Academy and he graciously acknowledged the Hammersmith Stand at the start of the second half. There was warm applause in response, though the same spectators later castigated him for perceived time-wasting.
With half an hour remaining, Oliver Norwood came on for Odoi, and Kamara replaced Yohan Mollo. The newcomer had spent an eventful hour on the pitch. His free kick had nearly brought a goal but he and Cardiff's Joe Bennett had been booked for an incident that went unnoticed by most of the crowd.
Other yellow cards were more obviously merited but referee Harrington sometimes appeared indecisive in a fiercely contested game.
Ayite, who had hit the upright early in the second half, later capitalised on an Etheridge error only for Bennett to block Johansen's attempt on goal.
Notwithstanding his erratic ball control, Kamara brought speed and strength to the attack and he was not awed by the Cardiff giant Sol Bamba. A Kamara pass put Ayite through and this time Joe Bennett could only deflect the ball to Ryan Sessegnon, who slammed home his first of the season. Ryan really enjoyed his more advanced role and over the 90 minutes he had enough chances for a hat trick.
The closing minutes provided by far the most exciting part of the match. Perhaps rashly the Whites strove for a second goal, ignoring the threat posed by the visitors' attack. Neil Warnock sent on Liam Feeney and Danny Ward. ''Who?' demanded the home fans. Far from mocking they should have been apprehensive bearing in mind how often a late substitute has thwarted Fulham.
Sure enough, a Cardiff breakaway led to Feeney providing Ward with a simple headed goal.
Despite the home side's frantic assault, the Blues almost won the match when a speculative cross hit the bar. Such a result would have been unjust as Fulham amply deserved a point.
“It was similar to the Norwich game,” Slavisa Jokanovic observed after the match. “We arrived in the last 10 minutes with an advantage. We didn't score the second goal. We didn't manage the situation well enough and we paid an expensive price.”
Wednesday evening brought the home win that fans had been waiting for.
At the end of a mediocre first half Ojo created a goal for the hard working Floyd Ayite. Almost inevitably, Hull equalised after the interval. Ayite, attempting a spectacular winner in the 62nd minute, missed his kick – but the chance fell to Johansen for him to grab the glory. The last half-hour was nerve-wracking, but the vital three points were secured.
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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