By Morgan Phillips
At least we didn’t lose.
An early kick-off on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon led to Queens Park Rangers ending Fulham’s winning run. Watched by Sky TV viewers, the home side gave a jaded performance with little of the classy football expected.
The first half hour had its moments but was mostly scrappy. Perhaps overanxious about retaining their place in the top four, Fulham slipped back to keeping possession without threatening their opponents’ goal.
Perhaps the most enjoyable feature was the jousting between Tim Ream and our former striker Matt Smith. Most times Ream prevailed, but on one occasion Smith cheekily picked his pocket.
Around the half-hour point Tom Cairney took the initiative, receiving the ball from Stefan Johansen and scoring with a long range shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Thirteen minutes later Ryan Sessegnon set up Lucas Piazon for Fulham’s second. It looked as if Fulham would complete the first half two clear goals ahead and coasting to victory but, helped by Smith (and some hesitant defending) Massimo Luongo secured a last-minute goal for Rangers.
The second period was largely dominated by the visitors. Fulham’s boss Slavisa Jokanovic is normally adept with his substitutions but this time he failed to reinforce his defence.
Denis Odoi showed unaccustomed hesitation, allowing Pawel Wszolek to score a late equaliser. Beyond doubt the Rangers deserved their point and it was Marcus Bettinelli’s fine goalkeeping that kept the score level.
Fulham supporters are delighted when their team fights back from 2-0 down to secure a draw. They moan when the reverse happens.
It is true that on this occasion the star players did not display their best form. Even so I was unprepared for the doom-mongering that I heard from some sections of the Hammersmith End, with criticism aimed at Tom Cairney of all people. How quickly some people forget what has been achieved.
It is nearly Easter and Fulham have not lost a League match since December. I grant that the play-offs usually bring disappointment, but the present squad is strong enough to defy that pattern.
One final note on Saturday’s game: the crowd dedicated one minute’s applause to Fulham’s former player Stan Brown, who had recently passed away at the age of 76.
Stan with his unquenchable enthusiasm was always a favourite at the Cottage. The Fulham that he joined in 1962 was a top tier club featuring Johnny Haynes, Alan Mullery and Graham Leggat.
Stan brought with him an amazing versatility. At a time when the players’ numbers indicated their function on the pitch, the 1 was allotted to the goalkeeper and the 5 to the centre half. Stan’s slight build precluded him from those positions but I would not be surprised if by the time he had completed around 400 games for Fulham he had worn all the other numbers between 2 and 12. Fulham certainly will not see another player like Stan Brown.
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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