If I can’t write for this website in times like the current, then I should retire my pen (or keyboard). I sit here locked up having had my one period of daily activity, swiping aimlessly on Tinder and binge-watching Netflix shows, it’s time to do something a little more productive.
Clint Dempsey, Mark Schwarzer, Graham Leggat, chance matches and emigrations are some of the threads that have connected Fulham to an international fanbase. This past week I’ve been asking for some of our international fans to give me an insight on their experiences being a Fulham supporter overseas, from closer to home like Ireland to further beyond in the United States and Canada to even further in Japan and Australia, there’s a footprint of football fans that call Fulham FC their team.
Whilst us closer to the Cottage are leaving home to journey to the Cottage, for me it’s South East London so a train and tube around 90 minutes worth (probably including the walk from Putney Bridge), there’s a number of supporters waking up to alarms to get their own Fulham fix of a weekend. For European based supporters, the matchday isn’t too intrusive but in North America, 3pm on a Saturday could be anywhere from 6am to 12pm dependent on location.
There’s a strange obsession on trying to be a truer fan than others, but I admittedly admire the dedication of those in the Australasia area waking up gone midnight on a Saturday, after a week of work to get their taste of Fulham. The volume of supporters Fulham attract to Craven Cottage isn’t anything special, the ability to make an income from other avenues is important to sustainability, especially in a world where Fulham are no longer an established top-flight club. Receiving a revenue stream from an extra few hundred (or thousand) from elsewhere in Europe and further out does make a difference.
Maybe it’s the ‘Rona but I’m feeling quite sentimental in terms of togetherness. I feel the pessimists reading this thinking ‘f*** the tourists.’ Well, this isn’t a post for you and I apologise for wasting your time, bro.
The footballing world has developed massively over the past decade, streams have become more accessible and social media has created an ability to connect with the rest of the world instantly. Twitter, for example, isn’t even 10 years into serious popularity, the occupation for anyone in social media or most things digital is new and ever-changing and it just displays how bloody awesome it is to be able to talk to people in the US about the same thing.
Tangent over, one of the things I wanted to get from talking to our foreign Fulham family is how they do stay attached to the family, how they remain connected the football club. Social media, understandably was top of the criteria whether it was Fulham supporter run pages (such as here, or Fulhamish/Fulham Focus or Cottage Talk) but also these supporters are making their own avenues – did you know for example; that ‘FFC Norway’ is extremely active on Facebook? I’m not a big Facebook guy but I find it so cool that people from Oslo or Tromso are taking time to talk Fulham let alone actively support or put money into the Fulham bank account.
There wasn’t really a real point to this post I guess, just a shout out to the life of those that support Fulham even if Craven Cottage isn’t within commutable distance on a regular basis. However, you start supporting the club, it’s a testament to the current fanbase and the unique feel that people who may only see the team once a year (or even less than that) are still determined to be a part of it all.
Thanks to all that helped me gather information, hope to see you all at the Cottage in the future.
Just a quick side-note, I noticed this past week that Fulham froze their ‘FFCTV’ membership payments this month given the lack of games – I personally wouldn’t have minded them taking the cash. With that in mind, I thought it’d be nice to donate the money that would’ve gone to the club to the Fulham FC Foundation who do lots of good in the community. It didn’t get much traction on Twitter but heck, a last plug here also.
A superb strike from Tom Cairney rescued a point for Fulham at fellow promotion chasers Bristol City this afternoon, although Scott Parker will feel his side should have claimed a victory after dominating for long spells at Ashton Gate.
As it was, the Whites had to come from behind to keep themselves in the automatic promotion hunt. Bobby Decordova-Reid spurned a number of opportunities to make his first return to BS3 before Nakhi Wells punished some sloppy defending to head the Robins in front with twenty minutes to play. It looked like that would settle the contest, but Cairney had other ideas, showing great anticipation to seize on a loose ball after Harry Arter had surged forward and curled a majestic equaliser into the bottom corner from 19 yards.
Parker’s men pushed for a winner during four added minutes. Former Fulham defender Tomas Kalas produced an outstanding block to prevent Decordova-Reid from poaching a winner. The most contentious moment came with virtually the last kick of the game when goalkeeper Nicky Mäenpää spilled a cross from Cyrus Christie and then clattered into Cairney as the Fulham skipper looked poised to convert the loose ball.
Fulham would have been frustrated not to claim all three points as they started at a swift tempo, with Decordova-Reid the man who posed his old club the most searching questions. He flicked a header wide after Ivan Cavaleiro delivered a peach of a cross from the left flank and then was foiled by a fine save from Mäenpää as he unleashed a venomous strike from the edge of the area on the stroke of half-time.
Marek Rodak had made largely routine saves in the first period, fielding a couple of straightforward efforts from Wells and Andreas Weimann, but he made an outstanding save to keep out Wells’ speculative strike just after the break once it looped off Tim Ream and looked destined for the opposite corner. Decordova-Reid went close at the other end, driving a low shot straight at Mäenpää after being released by Mitrovic, and the second half was much more open as both teams sought to breathe more live into their promotion campaigns.
Substitute Filip Benkovic rose well to head a Callum O’Dowda cross over the bar and Bristol City’s ambition was underlined when they broke breathlessly from a Fulham corner with Weimann surging into the penalty area only for Tim Ream to make a last-ditch tackle with two home runners free in the middle. The reprieve was short-lived. From the corner, Fulham spurned several chances to clear and Wells powered a header past Rodak at the far post to give the home side a lead.
Fulham were desperate to force a way back into the contest. Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was kept remarkably quiet by the Bristol City defence throughout, rippled the wrong side of the net with a low free-kick and then Mäenpää made an excellent reaction stop to thwart Denis Odoi’s near-post header from Neeskens Kebano’s corner.
It was left to Cairney to deliver a vital equaliser with six minutes left. He reacted quickest to seize a loose ball outside the Bristol City box and fashioned the sort of magnificent left-footed finish that has become his trademark in the Championship. Both Cairney and Decordova-Reid professed disappointment after the final whistle at Fulham’s failure to cut the gap to the top two, but the Whites will need to take matters into their own hands with crucial fixtures against Brentford and Leeds in the next eleven days.
Ahead of tomorrow’s big lunchtime meeting with Bristol City, I asked City fan Euan (@euanbcfc_) a few questions about his side’s season so far.
What do you make of Bristol City’s season so far?
“It’s an odd one. On paper it should be seen as a success; seventh place, just two points off the play-offs. But compare that to a negative goal difference, a recent winless streak of four games, a period after our away win at Craven Cottage where we only beat teams in the bottom three until late January, plus that Cup defeat to Shrewsbury and it suddenly seems a bit disappointing.”
Do you see yourself being in a play-off spot come May?
“Personally, I’m not all that confident we can. I just don’t feel Johnson is able to get it done with you, Preston, Blackburn, Swansea all seemingly more up for it. But that being said, if we can get Wells scoring again and re-introduce Kasey Palmer as well as tightening up at the back a bit as well, I’d say we have a very decent chance.”
You mentioned Lee Johnson, what do you make of his season so far?
“In terms of the fanbase as a whole, I can’t remember a time when it’s been as split as it is now in regards to him. Personally, I wanted him gone months ago, but a lot of fans would definitely disagree. It just seems like he’s coached all flair and excitement out of our game this season, and if some of the dressing room rumours are true he’s most certainly lost it, which isn’t ideal when you’re pushing for the top six.”
Is there a player Fulham should look out for tomorrow afternoon?
“Normally I’d say Niclas Eliasson, but I can see him being dropped and our formation changed, so I’d probably say Dan Bentley in goal. Without him we’d be nowhere near where we are now, and I genuinely believe he’s one of the top three stoppers in the league. Ten clean Sheets in a team who, as I said, have a negative goal difference, shouldn’t be ignored. But again, if he plays it should really be Eliasson – his pace and ability on the ball is unreal, and he has the most assists in the league for a reason.”
Finally, how do you see tomorrow’s action unfolding and can you give us a score prediction?
“I can see it going either way to be honest with you. With it being our 125th anniversary game, and live on Sky, we should theoretically be really up for it, and obviously we won the return fixture earlier on on the season. However you’re simply on much better form, and of course you have two academy products in Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan who’ll be eager to get involved, so I have to admit I think it’s going to be an away win.”
Bristol City doubts; Dan Bentley, Benik Afobe, Marley Watkins, Zak Vyner
Fulham doubts; Terence Kongolo, Alfie Mawson, Joshua Onomah, Joe Bryan
A clinical finish from Jean-Pierre Tiehi and a late Jay Stansfield free-kick salvaged a point for Fulham’s under 18s in an entertaining clash with Aston Villa this afternoon.
Ravaged by injuries, Steve Wigley was forced to deploy four centre halves in an unusual line-up. The changes gave sixteen year-old Xavier Benjamin the opportunity to show his capabilities on the right of a diamond, with Scottish youth international Connor McAvoy filling in at right back due to the lack of options. There was also a start for promising keeper George Wickens, who returned after a five month injury lay-off. Young striker Stansfield started again after his impressive brace against Southampton last weekend.
Villa went in front after twenty minutes after forward DJ Campton-Sturridge took a theatrical tumble in the penalty area and earned a spot-kick. Hayden Lindley’s effort came back off the post but Charlie Farr was the quickest to react and fired home the loose ball. Wigley’s young side might have been dispirited but they fought back admirably. Jean-Pierre Tiehi continued his fine run of form, scoring his fourth goal in six games, with a delightful finish six minutes before half-time, but the forward was forced off with an injury after a crunching tackle – which saw him on crutches after the game – before the interval.
The introduction of Imani Lanquedoc saw Mika Biereth deployed as a striker alongside Jay Stansfield, having previously operated behind Stansfield and Tiehi up until the substitution. Villa were certainly physical in their approach, with several heavy challenges aimed at Stansfield in particular, for which the referee issued three yellow cards.
A disappointing lapse in defensive concentration allowed Campton-Sturridge to restore Villa’s lead ten minutes into the second half when he clinically converted Cameron Archer’s clever pass. Fulham looked uncharacteristically lethargic until wonderkid Michael Olakigbe, fresh from a sensational performance against Watford, was summoned from the bench. The winger made an almost immediate impact, waltzing past a couple of defenders and winning a free-kick just outside the area. Stansfield stepped up and found the net with the aid of a massive deflection – earning a point with two minutes to play despite a below-par performance.
Scott Parker praised his side’s character after Fulham battled to a vital victory over fellow promotion chasers Preston North End at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The Whites were made to work hard for the three points. They had to wait until just before the hour to edge in front, when David Nugent headed Anthony Knockaert’s corner into his own net. The victory wasn’t secured until the final minute of stoppage time when Aboubakar Kamara finished his own swift counter-attack with aplomb.
Parker’s men are now six points behind second-placed Leeds, who thrashed Hull in the lunchtime kick-off, and seven off leaders West Brom, who lost at home to Wigan. The Fulham boss is refusing to look too far ahead, however, and wanted to concentrate on the way his side dealt with a strong side from Preston today.
“I’m pleased about the dogged display. The first 20 minutes we had to weather a storm. Preston had a day extra in their recovery and put pressure on us. I felt that one goal might decide the game and we managed to get that. After that I felt we were in the ascendancy.
We need to embrace this expectation. If you want to be a top team you need something a bit different, to have character. We’re slowly getting there.
It’s always important to win matches – we’ve come out of a busy schedule and to go into a busy periods with 10 games left it’s about our mentality now. West Brom and Leeds have been the best and most consistent in the division. They’re top teams and we have them both to play but we need to concentrate first on Bristol City.
My main focus is to worry about us. This division brings surprises week-in, week-out, so if you look too far ahead you can be jabbed on the nose. I look at my players and we have a bit of belief about us now. The dramatic way we won says that I see a group of players prepared to grind out a result.
Fulham ground out another vital win to keep themselves in the automatic promotion picture as a late strike from Aboubakar Kamara after David Nugent’s own goal secured a victory over fellow promotion contenders Preston North End at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
Scott Parker’s side were made to work hard for the three points by their visitors, with Preston enjoying plenty of the ball in the first half and creating a number of clear-cut chances. Alex Neill’s side were unable to score when they were on top and, once Fulham got a stroke of good fortune to take the lead after Nugent inadvertently nodded in a near post corner from Anthony Knockaert, they assumed control of the contest.
The away side started the stronger – fashioning the first chance via a sweeping move down the right flank. Ben Davies stepped in to disrupt a Fulham attack, found Nugent and Tom Barkhuizen breezed away from Joe Bryan, who injured his hamstring attempting to match the midfielder’s blistering pace, and when Marek Rodak could only parry the low cross into Brad Potts’ path, Michael Hector had to make a last-ditch saving tackle. Cyrus Christie replaced Bryan, with Denis Odoi switching to left back, and the Republic of Ireland full back produced his most complete display in a Fulham shirt, offering a real attacking threat throughout.
Fulham enjoyed more fortune when North End had a goal chalked off questionably in the tenth minute. Nugent flicked on Daniel Johnson’s corner for Sean Maguire to force home at the far post – but the flag went up for offside. Whether the Ireland international had to touch it given Nugent’s header might have been heading for the far corner anyway was also open to question, but decision seemed marginal at best. Rodak then fielded a rising drive from Alan Browne as the visitors continued to flood forward in numbers.
Parker’s men gradually began to put together some promising football of their own. A looping Knockaert header after some fine approach play by Christie was easy enough for Declan Rudd to field and another intricate move saw Bobby Decordova-Reid skip into space in the box before dragging his shot disappointingly wide.
Preston’s ambition was still posing Fulham serious problems. Patrick Bauer headed wide at the far post having remained in an advanced position when a corner wasn’t properly cleared and Rodak had to stretch to keep out another Browne shot after a bout of pinball had delivered the ball to the North End skipper. Christie almost broke the deadlock right on half time when he advanced into the area but his low shot across goal was well gathered by Rudd.
Fulham started the second period on the front foot but couldn’t really penetrate a resolute Preston defence with a tame header from the well-marshalled Aleksandar Mitrovic representing their only serious chance of the first ten minutes. The goal, when it came, was a complete fluke. Knockaert clipped a corner towards the near post where Nugent was stationed, but the former England international somehow managed to find the top corner with his clearing header.
Fulham then pressed for a crucial second, but despite a number of dangerous crosses nothing materialised. The best opportunities fell at the feet of Christie, who was enjoying an outstanding cameo. He fashioned the first for himself, breaking up a Preston attack on the halfway line and driving deep into North End territory before his shot was deflected behind for a corner. His follow up when the set play landed at his feet flew fractionally over the bar.
Cairney, who enjoyed another excellent game as the orchestrator of Fulham’s tempo from a deep midfield position, drove over from distance after space opened up in front of him whilst Cavaleiro, who was anonymous for long periods, slipped at the vital moment as he prepared to the pull trigger having cut inside from the left flank.
Preston piled players forward in search of a late equaliser. They went more direct in the second period but their attacking threat actually diminshed, with their only clear chance coming in the form of another Bauer header from Harrop’s free-kick that Rodak had to shovel away from danger. When they won a corner deep into the fourth minute of added time, Preston sent everyone forward only for Johnson’s blocked shot to fall for Kamara, who surged clear down the left flank, reaching the penalty area in no time at all. The Frenchman, unlucky not to start after his decisive contribution on Wednesday, sought to play in Cavaleiro, but gobbled up the return pass, powering home at the near post to make sure of the points.
Ahead of this Saturdays mouth-watering clash against high flying Preston North End, I asked Preston fan Jack (@pnetucker) a few questions about North End’s season so far as well as his prediction for the clash at Craven Cottage tomorrow.
First question, what do you make of Prestons season so far?
“If someone was to tell me at the start of the season that by March we would be sixth and with a good chance of getting to the play-offs, I would’ve snapped your hand off. We (the fans) are happy where we are, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, its been a satisfying season so far but we are somewhat fearful we could slip down”
How are you feeling about your play-off ambitions at the moment?
“Optimistic, but skeptical, being aware of the teams around us it makes all these games ‘must wins’ as we need to start distancing ourselves away from Blackburn, Bristol City and Swansea. We haven’t done that yet, however I do believe the squad can grind important results, and it does help that some teams around us haven’t been very good , but it’s all down to whether we can take advantage of that or not.”
What do you make of Alex Neil so far this season?
“I think he’s improved us, he’s started to implement a more expansive, attacking style of play, but he still has his flaws, such as the very late substitutions and reluctance to take certain players out of the team. However, that doesn’t change the fact he’s performed miracles with a squad which is one of the cheapest in the league, and with very little backing from the board”
Do you have a player which Fulham fans should look out for this weekend?
“Daniel Johnson is definitely that player to look out for. His ability to control a game and make something for us is magnificent, and he also has goals to his name, not bad for a player we wanted gone in the summer!”
Finally, can I get your thoughts on tomorrows game and a score prediction?
“This has the potential to be a scrappy game as both teams need the points. Darnell Fisher’s red card being rescinded is a huge boost for us and that gives me hope we could put on a solid defensive display, but its hard to keep a player like Mitrovic quiet. I have no idea which way this is going to go but knowing us we could very much do a smash and grab and nick a win, so I’m going to be confident and go for a Preston win.”
Fulham doubts : Maxime Le Marchand, Joshua Onomah, Harrison Reed, Alfie Mawson and Terence Kongolo
Preston North End Doubts : Josh Harrop, Tom Bayliss, Billy Bodin and Louis Moult
My Fulham XI : Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Hector, Bryan, McDonald, Cairney (C), Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Kamara
@pnetucker’s score prediction: Fulham 0-1 Preston North End
@FFCSeb’s score prediction: Fulham 1-1 Preston North End
Aleksandar Mitrovic has never let Fulham down. Even tonight, when it seemed his late penalty miss might make their dreams of automatic promotion even more remote, the Serbian striker popped up with a more decisive moment at the death. Mitrovic leapt high to meet Aboubakar Kamara’s inch-perfect cross and thunder home a trademark header in off the crossbar and clinch a vital three points against distraught fellow promotion chasers Swansea City.
Swansea boss Steve Cooper was as enraged as his players, who surrounded referee Tim Robinson following the final whistle, suggesting that the official had overlooked as many as three penalty appeals, whilst granting Fulham a spot-kick after Neeskens Kebano had tangled with Connor Roberts’ legs at the back post. That award certainly appeared generous – and there was an element of justice served up almost immediately when Freddie Woodman saved both Mitrovic’s unconvincing spot-kick and Kebano’s follow-up.
The penalty miss seemed to drain the life out of a Fulham side who had started at a much higher tempo than in recent weeks. But with time ticking by, Kamara grabbed his opportunity to improve. The French forward, given only eight minutes to turn what was by then a very open contest in Fulham’s favour, drove defiantly down the right and produced an outstanding cross for Mitrovic to bullet home an emphatic header having soared above Ben Cabango in the air.
There was no time for a crestfallen Swansea side to respond. Andre Ayew had to be dragged away from the officials by his team-mates, incandescent with rage at Robinson’s decision to award Fulham a penalty but reject his strong appeals at the other end. He appeared to have been crudely taken out by Denis Odoi, who slid in violently to end a slalom run that had carried him clear of Michael Hector and a couple of other Fulham challengers, as well as waving away convincing claims for handball against Joe Bryan.
Bryan produced a critical piece of defending deep into injury time to divert the ball away from Connor Gallagher as the Chelsea loanee seemed set to burst through on goal and thirty seconds later the ball was in the Swansea net. The visiting players and fans were angered by Robinson’s decision to play on – but television replays appeared to confirm that Bryan, who has been criticised for his defending this season, played the ball cleanly.
In the light of Leeds’ narrow win at relegation-threatened Middlesbrough, this proved a precious three points for Fulham. For an awfully long time, it looked like being another frustrating evening on the bitterly cold banks of the Thames. Scott Parker’s side began with purpose, with much more penetration than of late, but still lacked the decisive touch in front of goal. Woodman made a smothering save inside the first thirty seconds with Anthony Knockaert, who flattered to deceive once again, whipping in a shot at the near post.
The goalkeeper then made amends for a poor clearance by thwarting Bobby Decordova-Reid and later acrobatically tipped an inswinging Ivan Cavaleiro corner onto the crossbar. Swansea took a while to get themselves into the contest, but the visitors soon created openings of their own. Joe Rodon flicked a free-kick right across the face of goal and Ayew did brilliantly to burst away from Tim Ream and onto Gallagher’s clever flick but couldn’t find a finish after rounding Marek Rodak, allowing Odoi to nip in and clear in the nick of time.
Fulham continued to apply serious pressure of their own. Cavaleiro’s curler looped wide after Cabongo had closed the winger down effectively – bringing to an end a sweeping move that saw the Whites work their way out from the back before Cairney and Bryan fashioned the opening down the left. Mitrovic inexplicably shanked an effort wide after being released by Knockaert following a rare mistake from Joe Rodon and then volleyed fractionally over having made an opportunity all for himself: chesting down Rodak’s long kick and swivelling to shoot in an instant. Swansea could have been in front at the break, though, with former Brentford full-back Jake Bidwell heading agonisingly wide from a near post corner.
The second half didn’t quite have the same intensity to it initially, but it bubbled up nicely. The speedy Rhian Brewster, booked in the first half for a nasty lunge at Tom Cairney, fired straight at Rodak and Bryan was fortunate to survive penalty claims when he appeared to handle a cross from Jay Fulton. At the other end, Rodon produced a couple of excellent bits of defending in quick succession to repel Mitrovic and Cavaleiro.
Swansea had good chances to open the scoring on the break. Brewster spurned a good chance created by Bidwell and substitute Jordon Garrick was foiled by a great reaction save from Rodak and the offside flag. Ayew sped clear twice down the left wing, once he was denied by Rodak, and then by the referee when he was sent sprawling to the turf by Odoi’s ill-judged lunge.
The spot-kick actually arrived at the other end, when Robinson pointed for a penalty after two substitutes collided at the far post. It seemed an accidental tangling of legs between Kebano and Roberts, but the referee was adamant. Mitrovic went for placement rather than power and Woodman palmed away both the penalty and the rebound – only to be beaten at the very last by the Serbian’s moment of redemption.
Another game under the lights and a much anticipated double header at Craven Cottage kicks off on Wednesday evening when we host South Wales outfit Swansea City.
In the return fixture we managed to hold on to a 2-1 lead on what was an entertaining encounter back on a cold Friday evening in late November, and this game represents a massive chance to get back to winning ways following a frustrating three match winless streak. After making a very fast start to the season, Swansea seemed to have tailed off in the new year, however three wins in a row have put them firmly in the play-off race. Steve Cooper is one of the country’s most progressive and promising coaches, although he will be alarmed that one of the division’s most miserly defences has managed just a single clean sheet in their last seven league games – against QPR. which came at an out of form QPR side.
The man to watch for the Swans is definitely striker Andre Ayew, scoring 13 times this campaign, including one against us back at the Liberty Stadium. He’s formed a potent partnership with Sam Surridge, impressive on loan from AFC Bournemouth, scoring seven times in all competitions. The Swans have plenty of creative quality in midfield and will fancy their chances of exploiting any frailties in the Fulham defence.
Veterans Mike Van Der Hoorn and Wayne Routledge will both be missing tonight, but Aldo Kalulu is available despite being forced off in his last fixture against Huddersfield, while winger Nathan Dyer faces a late fitness test to be ready in time. Scott Parker has no new injury issues for this game. The game will fall just too soon for the return of Harrison Reed while Alfie Mawson, Maxime Le Marchand and Terence Kongolo are all still sidelined for the Cottagers.
A victory is crucial for Fulham as we continue to try and mount the pressure on the top two – but Swansea will prove a tough test.
My Preferred Fulham XI: Rodak, Christie, Odoi, Hector, Bryan, McDonald, Cairney (c), Bobby Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Knockaert
Marek Rodak redeemed himself by making a string of fine saves as Fulham fought back to claim a point at Derby County this evening. The Slovakian goalkeeper, who endured an error-strewn afternoon as bottom of the table Barnsley romped to victory at Craven Cottage last weekend, made three outstanding stops to prevent Philip Cocu’s side from adding to a lead supplied by a cheeky paneka penalty from Wayne Rooney, making his 500th league appearance in English football.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, as he so often does, came to Fulham’s rescue – reviving a rather timid performance with a stroke of magic to guide in Aboubakar Kamara’s cross for the equaliser. The Serbian’s 22nd Championship goal of the season set up a grandstand finish during which either side could have won it, but both ultimately had to settle for what was a frustrating point. The result means Scott Parker’s side are two points behind second-placed Leeds, who host Reading tomorrow afternoon.
It could have been much worse for the visitors who, despite enjoying the lion’s share of the possession against another of the division’s footballing sides, struggled to create clear-cut chances. It was Derby, far more incisive in the final third, who fashioned the game’s better openings. Rodak was called into action first on eleven minutes when a clever Rooney cross was diverted goalwards by Tom Lawrence, who had incredibly shot out of the stadium when presented with the evening’s first chance.
Lawrence, playing wider than he would prefer to order to accommodate Rooney, then saw a 20-yard drive deflected agonisingly wide. The home side were growing in confidence and one majestic move saw Rooney release full back Craig Forsyth into the inside-left challenge but his low cross only just eluded Martyn Waghorn in the middle. Rodak then made a wonderful save at full stretch to preserve parity when Matt Clarke reached a free-kick at the far post and looked to have turned it home at full stretch.
Fulham’s brightest moments involved Mitrovic, who still seemed far too isolated to be a regular threat. He was denied by an intelligent piece of defending from Curtis Davies but, after a sweeping break, nearly diverted Anthony Knockaert’s cross goalwards before heading a Bobby Decordova-Reid delivery straight at Ben Hamer in the Derby goal.
It was Cocu’s team that finished the first period on the front foot. Waghorn battled to win the ball back for Derby inside his own half and the hosts probed patiently for an opening before Lawrence unleashed a low drive from just inside the box that Rodak palmed aside.
The game followed a similar pattern after the restart with Derby looking the more lively in front of goal as Fulham’s rather ponderous passing seemed to be leading nowehere. Andre Wisdom wasted a glorious opportunity on the edge of the Fulham box, blazing wildly over when he could have chosen to pass to one of three team-mates in good positions, but Derby weren’t ruing their defender’s lack of composure for too long.
The opening goal arrived ten minutes after the break – and through a mess of Fulham’s own making. The visitors attempted to play their way out from the back with another short goal kick but Joe Bryan’s risky pass went astray. Waghorn turned Tim Ream in the area and referee Darren Bond penalised the American centre back for what seemed a rather harsh handball. Rooney, a regular scourge of Fulham over the years, impudently chipped home the penalty over a helpless Rodak.
That setack did at least serve to enliven Fulham. Mitrovic floated a free-kick towards the top corner that Hamer plucked out of the air and the Serbian couldn’t quite get to another inviting Bryan cross with Hamer doing his best to put him off. Parker sent on Kamara and Ivan Cavaleiro in a bid to find a leveller – and the changes worked within five minutes. Both substitutes were involved in the move that led to Mitrovic produced a wonderfully controlled volley into the bottom corner from Kamara’s rather speculative cross, with Cavaleiro’s purposeful run and shot rebonding kindly for the Frenchman.
Fulham might have had a second with seven minutes to play when Kevin McDonald’s searching forward ball sent Kamara haring towards the Derby box. The ball fell nicely for Cavaleiro, who should have done better than lash over the bar from the edge of the area. Derby weren’t content to shut up shop and settle for a point – Odoi blocked a Rooney strike before Rodak made outrageous stops to first keep out a rocket from young Max Bird and then readjust in the nick of time to bundle Davies’ attempted finish away from behind him as it looked certain to nestle in the net. The young goalkeeper even scrambled across his line to keep out Lawrence’s corner in stoppage time to preserve parity.