By Morgan Phillips
On 20 April last year, Fulham’s 3-0 victory at Millwall moved them up to second place in the Championship with two matches remaining.
Having beaten Sunderland at the Cottage, the Whites then lost at Birmingham - which meant Wolves and Cardiff secured automatic promotion.
It was not a disaster because Fulham qualified for the play-offs and the chance of appearing in a Wembley final. Drawn against Derby in the semis, Stefan Jokanovic’s team lost the away tie 1-0; but won 2-0 at home to reach Wembley.
The subsequent defeat of Aston Villa earned Fulham a place in the Premier League.
Those defeats at Birmingham and Derby, so quickly forgotten, had far more significance than we realised.
They precipitated twelve months in which Fulham failed to secure a victory on any opponents’ turf - Championship, Premier League, FA Cup, even pre-season friendlies. (OK, we did win at Millwall in the Carabao Cup but hardly anyone noticed).
The drought lasted right up to 20 April 2019, when Aleksander Mitrovic’s penalty kick gave Fulham the advantage over Bournemouth.
It was the second successive win for Scott Parker’s team, and the second ‘clean sheet’ (particular credit for that belonged to goalkeeper Sergio Rico).
These welcome points came too late, of course. But next Saturday’s match at Craven Cottage is important, as it may well decide the fate of Cardiff City.
I make no forecast for the match apart from predicting that City’s manager Neil Warnock will find something to grouse about.
Fulham’s revival is not a real surprise. Logic often takes a holiday at this point in the season, and the pundits hastily revise their opinions.
Back in February, the Cottage resounded with ‘We’ve got our United back’ as the Manchester fans hailed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He is still their hero but his team have lost six games out of eight, and The Times described their defeat by Everton as ‘United’s worst performance since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013’.
Meanwhile Fulham’s stock is rising, and supporters are already speculating whether the present team under Scott Parker might after all be serious contenders for next season’s Championship.
The final three matches of this season should help the club’s owners plan for next year’s campaign. As well as allowing Parker and his players further opportunities to show what they can do.
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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