Despite the forecast of milder weather, I added several layers of clothing before setting out for the Cottage on Friday evening.
For the first quarter of the match with Queens Park Rangers, I wondered if the Fulham had also padded themselves out because they looked so slow against the speedy visitors.
It took Rangers only three minutes to score. Tim Ream sent the ball back to Marek Rodak in goal, presumably to initiate one of those tedious short passing movements. Off message (or off-balance) Rodak kicked the ball into touch.
Rangers saw the potential, while Fulham appeared unaware of danger. Racing down the wing Nakhi Wells crossed to the unmarked Jordan Hugill, who prodded the ball over the line.
Rangers should have doubled their lead when the talented Eberechi Eze laid on a perfect opportunity for Dominic Ball. Rodak blocked the shot and no attacker could reach the rebound. Then Tim Ream crashed the ball against his own post. QPR could well have been three goals up.
Fulham threw off the torpor of the first half-hour thanks to Aboubakar Kamara, playing because Aleks Mitrovic was suspended. Denis Odoi’s precise centre allowed Kamara’s well-directed header to level the score. This sparked a contest that exposed the weakness of both defences but provided plenty of excitement for the spectators and the viewers. Ivan Cavaleiro hit the upright but generally the visitors showed greater accuracy. (True, one of their wilder efforts just missed me sitting in row N.) Fortunately, Marek Rodak had recovered from his nervous start and now looked hard to beat.
At half-time both sets of fans cheered Bobby Zamora when he was interviewed on the pitch. When he played for Fulham his goal celebrations were sometimes muted because he felt unloved by some sections of the Hammersmith End. Kamara seemed to be reacting the same way even though his transgressions of last season are now forgotten.
As usual the Whites improved after the interval. Bobby de Cordova-Reid made a wonderful chance for Anthony Knockaert, which he spurned. Knockaert then urged the Hammersmith End to be more supportive as if it was our fault that he shot so tamely, or that the Whites achieved only four efforts on target in the entire match.
This close encounter was decided in the 64th minute when the QPR keeper Joe Lumley gifted the ball to Stefan Johansen, who promptly found Abou Kamara on the wing. Calmly the Frenchman slotted the ball into the far corner of Lumley’s net.
Before the match Fulham and Rangers had only been one point apart. The victory moved the home side to fourth, leaving the visitors in mid-table.
Derby County, the next visitors to the Cottage, were also mid-table, and Fulham started the match in the same dozy fashion giving Tom Lawrence the easiest of chances. Fortunately, he miskicked and the home side quickly asserted themselves. Rightly Scott Parker had kept Kamara in the starting line-up, and Derby struggled to deal with the Frenchman’s speed and the returning Mitrovic’s strength.
Corner kicks used to be wasted, but no more, it seems. In the seventh minute, with County failing to clear their lines, Kamara’s looping centre gave the talented Bobby de Cordova-Reid his first goal for the club. And before half-time, Ivan Cavaleiro’s corner was headed in by Mitrovic despite a phalanx of defenders.
Kamara was injured early in the second half and de Cordovas-Reid also had to leave the field. Play became scrappy with Fulham losing their focus, but Derby again missed a simple chance. Then their goalkeeper’s rushed clearance was deflected to Mitrovic, who played in Tom Cairney for the third goal.
After the match I heard a County fan say, ‘We let them play.’ Indeed, they did. And Fulham took full advantage.
A victory at Swansea would show the team as serious contenders for promotion.
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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