Play-off games and Fulham don’t seem to mix very well, do they? It was frustrating tonight at Pride Park. Derby did not in any way out-play us, but they did what they needed to do in order to have a slender advantage ahead of the second leg tie at Craven Cottage in a few days’ time. Once again Fulham dominated possession but only forced Derby keeper Scott Carson into a handful of saves while Kevin McDonald came the closest to scoring when his thunderous effort crashed off the cross bar.
I see a lot of negativity online, and to be frankly honest, it surprises me. This was not a repeat of last weekend’s dreadful display at Birmingham. While the first half was was disappointing, it wasn’t the horrendous performance that many would have you believe. It was a soft goal to concede as Matt Target, who rarely puts a foot wrong, was weak when Cameron Jerome was powerful. The second half, on the other hand, was attack v defence with Fulham throwing as much as possible forward. We were very unfortunate not to score, and I highly doubt that Derby will keep us out for another 90, especially not at Craven Cottage.
There are things that I am disappointed in, mainly when it comes to Tom Cairney. His light jogs backwards when he lost the ball is really my second of three criticisms of tonight, the first being how we conceded the goal as I have already covered. Cairney needs to find the intensity that has been an important part of our play for the past two seasons. He has the ability to be our heartbeat, but he has to want it.
My only other criticism is the short corners. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why we did that for some of them as we rarely score from corners so it perhaps seemed like a better way to get the ball into the box, but every time in the second half was a bit much. Derby have a lot of big, powerful defenders and midfielders, so perhaps Slav thought that they would win every ball in there straight from a corner, but when it wasn’t working, I don’t get why we kept going with it. Other than that, however, I am feeling positive. It’s one-nil at half time, a score line that can be overturned.
I’m frustrated at the negativity going around though. In an incredible season, people have been gushing over Fulham yet two bad results and suddenly the bottom has fallen out of some people’s world. The team has given us something special this year, so let’s not destroy them when things aren’t going our way.
This is a rally call. Think about what has gone on this season. Think about the times when we have played beautiful football and the times when we have had to dig deep to get results. Think of the last-minute goals of Norwood and Mitrovic, and the wonder tackles of Tim Ream to ensure we got over the line. Take all the emotion and put it into something positive and then get to the Cottage on Monday night and get the boys over the line.
Still one game from Wembley.