Fortress Fulham is back. This weekend saw another home game, another top side make the trip to Craven Cottage full of confidence and head home having fallen victim to the free-flowing Whites. Slavisa Jokanovic’s men might have had to wait until their fourth home game of the season to taste victory, but they are making the most of their home comforts as the season moves into the final street. Yesterday’s formidable filleting of league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers made it eight consecutive home wins and kept that second automatic promotion spot a real possibility.
The confidence that has come from the twelve game unbeaten run since that wretched defeat on Wearside by Chris Coleman’s Sunderland is oozing through Jokanovic’s side right now. Once they edged ahead of Wolves courtesy of Ryan Sessegnon’s lightning reactions, they looked like a team that wasn’t going to relinquish the lead without a scrap. And credit to Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, who came to west London intent on playing football rather than engaging in the physical battle Bristol City preferred in midweek.
The visitors are justifiably top of the league – having played splendid football throughout the season that has put them streets ahead of the rest of the Championship. They have players who can change the course of a game in a blink of an eye – and Wolves looked lightning quick on the counter-attack. Like the fans, Fulham were up for this huge test and they started at a real rate of knots, never letting Wolves settle. The Whites dominated possession and didn’t look in too much danger until that glaring miss from Diogo Jota late on.
The team’s performance was faultless from front to back. Everyone in the white shirt was excellent, but Aleksandar Mitrovic – who scored the splendid second goal that knocked the stuffing out of Wolves – Ryan Fredericks and Tim Ream are worthy of particular mention. Fredericks’ display has to be one of his best in a Fulham shirt. His defensive work was superb – with his sheer determination to win every 50/50 shining through from the off. Ream’s performance has to rank alongside the ones we became used to watching from Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland and the American is now the rock of Jokanovic’s back four.
But it would be remiss not to highlight the excellence of Stefan Johansen in the Fulham engine room. He has brought energy and no little quality to the midfield since his arrival from Celtic last August and he seems to be hitting the heights of last season again after enduring a few ups and downs earlier this term. Irrepressible displays like last night’s show just why Johansen is captain of his country. He was all over Wolves from the off, regularly turned defence into attack with a telling intervention and played an underappreciated part in both goals. As well as the eye-catching moments, Johansen’s endeavour also gives his fellow midfielders Kevin McDonald and Tom Cairney the freedom to play to their strengths.
The big games keep coming with three tantalising tussles against Derby County, Preston North End and Sheffield United – who are all likely to be in the promotion picture until the final weeks of the season – looming large. They certainly won’t fancy facing Fulham with Jokanovic’s charges in such imperious form and the run-in promises plenty of excitement.