By Morgan Phillips
After a disappointing sequence of results I found it hard to share the optimism of those fans who anticipated three victories in nine days. Perhaps I should have had more faith because Wigan and Reading have since succumbed and Charlton Athletic must be a little nervous about their forthcoming visit to the Cottage.
One of Danny Kaye’s best monologues featured a film that began in the middle to make it more comprehensible for latecomers. I was reminded of this on Friday night. Fulham’s home match against Wigan kicked off at 7.45pm but anyone turning up around 8.30pm would soon realise that nothing of note had occurred. The home side had shown some purpose but Alfie Mawson, Harrison Reed, Aleks Mitrovic and Anthony Knockaert were all culpable of weak finishing. Wigan achieved even less. True, their tackling was, to put it mildly, full blooded but the referee Dean Whitestone kept his cards in his pocket after the 5th minute, unimpressed by some of the home players’ dramatic falls.
I remarked in my last blog that Scott Parker would have somehow to coax his team to a victory. He must have found the right formula at half-time for we saw a very different Fulham in the second half.
A goal came almost immediately. After another Wigan foul Anthony Knockaert curled a perfect free kick into the Wigan penalty area. Joe Bryant the grateful recipient slammed it towards the net with his left foot. Goalkeeper David Marshall blocked the shot only for Bryan to latch onto the rebound and score with his right. He had been waiting a long time for that goal.
This energised the home fans and also stirred Wigan to play some football. The game suddenly became watchable, with no certain indication of the final score. It took a breakaway in the 82nd minute for Knockaert to provide Tom Cairney with another of his unstoppable shots from long range.
It was a deserved victory. Marcus Bettinelli had no real saves to make though he endured some bruising encounters in his area. One of them provoked a brief flare-up. Fulham must keep their discipline as there will be harder matches than this and not all referees will be as tolerant as Mr Whitestone.
I hope no-one arrived late for the game at Reading on Tuesday night because the decisive events took place in the first half-hour. Referee Andy Woolmer also used the early card strategy, booking the home side’s John Swift in the fifth minute. Swift merited it for his tackle on Bobby de Cordova-Reid, but Aleks Mitrovic and some team-mates got overexcited instead of leaving the official to deal with it. The same applied when the same player transgressed again and received a red card in the 20th minute. By then Fulham were already a goal ahead through another Cairney thunderbolt.
Thereafter the depleted Reading team could do nothing to prevent Mitrovic from scoring twice in three minutes. They were a beaten side with an hour of the match remaining. Luckily for them they were playing Fulham not Bayern Munich and they conceded only once more when Tom Cairney seized on a defensive muddle and lobbed the ball into an empty net.
Yakoo Meite slightly marred the celebrations by scoring a late goal for Reading but the 4-1 win shows that Fulham are back in contention.
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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