By Morgan Phillips
September has been tough on the riverside club. Brighton, Manchester City, Watford and Everton have all tested to the limit a team still searching for its rhythm. The total of two points from those four games leaves Fulham just above the danger line.
The first half of the match at Everton suggested a goalless draw as a likely result, which would have been a moral victory for Fulham’s suspect defence. Then just after the interval the unpredictable Denis Odoi gave the home side a stupid penalty. Gylfi Sigurdsson, possibly aware of Marcus Bettinelli’s reputation for saving spot kicks, hit the ball hard but so high that it cannoned off the crossbar.
This was not the good omen that it appeared to be. Five minutes later Denis erred again, diverting the ball to Sigurdsson, who gladly seized the chance to make amends. Everton went on to score twice more, but the match was already won. Fulham did not achieve a single shot on target.
Head coach Slavisa Jokanovic offered no excuses: “Nothing is tragic but we definitely didn’t show our maximum here today at Goodison Park.”
The new players and the survivors from last season should now be asking themselves whether they have shown their maximum in August and September. Paul Joyce of the Times, reviewing Saturday’s game, awarded each Fulham player five marks out of ten – apart from the overworked Bettinelli, who earned an extra point.
However the picture is not wholly bleak. Ryan Sessegnon seems to be adjusting to the Premier League; and Tom Cairney and Tim Ream, heroes of the promotion campaign, are returning from injury.
The Carabao Cup, as I intimated in a recent blog, has allowed players on the fringe of the first team to show their potential. The 3-1 Cup win at Millwall not only upset the likes of Danny Baker and Rod Liddle, it also spotlighted the goalscoring ability of Joe Bryan, Luca de la Torre and Cyrus Christie. Slavisa Jokanovic even gave 15 years old Harvey Elliott a brief taste of first team football.
This was Fulham’s second win at the New Den in 2018, and it takes the club through to the round of 16. The cup draw, made on the last evening of September, requires Fulham to visit Manchester City (again).
As I said, it has been a tough month.
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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