By Morgan Phillips
Ever since the 1895-96 season, matches between Fulham and Brentford have been keenly contested. Sometimes excessively so.
While the encounter at Griffin Park last Saturday passed off peacefully, the 3-1 defeat will have hurt the pride of Fulham supporters.
Attention inevitably turns to manager, Slavisa Jokanovic. He is a man who sticks to what he believes and does not blame others when his ideas misfire. Just before the Brentford game he spoke about goalkeeper David Button’s hesitant and sometimes disastrous delivery of the ball: “This is my order. I force him to do this… We can make some kind of mistake but I take the risk and so it is my mistake.”
This was not a cause of the defeat at Griffin Park, where initially Fulham looked capable of a third successive victory.
A 25th minute exchange of passes between Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks enabled Neeskens Kebano to put his team in front. However, Brentford responded ten minutes later when (despite our midfield strength) Ollie Watkins was allowed to run with the ball and pass to Sergi Cantos in a scoring position. The latter’s shot must have taken a deflection which deceived Button. The half ended ominously with a yellow card for Denis Odoi.
If Fulham had the better of the first period, their opponents dominated the second. Just after the interval Yoann Barbet headed against the post and substitute Romaine Sawyers netted the rebound. Odoi, who seemed to be nursing an injury and a grievance, ignored a final warning from the referee and had to be dismissed in the 52nd minute. Thereafter, Cairney did hit the bar but Brentford increased their lead through Watkins.
As Jokanovic maintains, Fulham were doing well enough until Brentford’s second goal and Odoi’s dismissal. Jokanovic took full responsibility for selecting a multitude of mid-fielders with no-one up front: “I play with strikers. I play with false strikers …. I picked the team that I thought would win the game.”
To be fair, his chosen team did muster a respectable six shots on target, but as Jokanovic is not afraid of risk it is a pity that he did not send on Aboubakar Kamara for the last half hour of the game. The speedy Kamara is the nearest that we have to a striker, and he might well have discomfited Brentford.
Two more positive notes: we now have an FA Cup tie against Southampton to look forward to; and the team’s shirts for next Saturday’s match will advertise the Fulham Foundation, which funds disability provision in the community.
In response to this donation by Grosvenor Casinos, spectators are asked to ‘bring a pound to the ground’. It’s a catchy phrase, but I imagine that larger donations will also be accepted.
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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