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Fulham 1-0 Sheffield United: Player ratings

In perhaps the most pivotal match of the season, Scott Parker’s side grabbed a precious three points against Sheffield United last night – emerging from a nervy ninety minutes with the narrowest of advantages courtesy of Ademola Lookman’s second half strike. This was only Fulham’s fourth league win of the season but it offers the Whites some serious momentum at just the right time and lifts them to within three points of safety.

The Blades, despite a debilitating injury crisis were still resolute and tricky to break down, played a 5-3-2 formation as they looked to sit incredibly deep in their own half the back five lined up across their own penalty area. This was a ploy that would render Fulham’s counterattacking strength academic. Instead, it was designed to entice Parker’s men forwards to try and break them down with slower passing moves around Wilder’s charges, who would simply wait for someone to make a mistake before charging forward via their speedy wing backs and and two centre forwards who spent most of the game waiting by the half way line. This did cause a few problems for Fulham, when caught with the bare minimum defenders ready to stop a counter-attack, however, for the most part, Fulham’s back line was relatively undisturbed.

The talking point from the first half was a Fulham counter-attack which started when Ampadu attempted a cross into the Fulham box, which was cleared by Reed into the path of Loftus-Cheek, who took a few steps before passing the ball to Nigerian international Ademola Lookman. The left-sided winger then went on a run from halfway-down the Fulham half to the right-hand side of the half-way line before placing a perfectly balanced through ball into the path of Ivan Cavaleiro on the right hand side. The Portugese winger ran onto this ball, meeting it in the space between the box and the touchline on the right. He dribbled into the Sheffield United box and attempted to shoot from a tight angle from the right side of the goal, with his shot tipped over the bar by Aaron Ramsdale.

In the turgid, slow and relatively uninteresting game of football, which was definitely not one for the neutrals, Fulham’s first half nerves were cooled after Ademola Lookman’s goal in the 61st minute. In fact, this goal did not come from the slow attempt to break down Sheffield United’s deep defence, but instead the White’s were able to catch the Blades at a vulnerable moment as their attempted attack broke down. Therefore, the Cottagers were able to counterattack the Cutlers via a long ball from Andersen which went over the top of Sheffield United’s hardworking midfield and their defensive line to reach Ademola Lookman on the left-hand side corner of the opposition box. Fulham were able to by-pass the 5-3-2 system, which hadn’t allowed for much creativity, as Lookman took the ball down onto his chest, took a few steps further before taking the ball past Ampadu, into the centre of the box, and blasting the ball through Ramsdale’s legs into the goal.

To their immense credit, Sheffield United kept Fulham’s fans on the edge of their seat until the very last. They pushed forward pumping balls in the box but their clearest opening came from a wonderfully worked move. Basham brilliantly found McBurnie in the middle of the field, who neatly controlled the ball and poked it onto Billy Sharp on the edge of the Fulham box. Sharp then laid a neat through ball onto the path of Enda Stevens, who’s effort from the mid-left of the box was thankfully parried away by Alphonse Areola.

Aina nearly made it 2-0 for London’s Originals with another long shot, something that is becoming quite the trend for the versatile Nigerian defender. The move was started by Anguissa on the left wing, who placed the ball into the feet of Ademola Lookman on the edge of the opposition box. Lookman, being pressed by opposition defenders from both behind and to his left, managed to smoothly dribble around both of their challanges and lay the ball of to Loftus-Cheek. The Chelsea man, with his back to the goal, took a few steps before turning to his left and passing to Ola Aina who was in a pocket of space on the right side of the pitch. Aina then met the ball and saw his opportunity to shoot from range, with his powerful, dipping shot headed for the centre of the Hammersmith End goal, before Ramsdale got his right hand to the ball and slapped it over the bar.

This was Fulham’s first real chance which wasn’t from a counter-attack, showing just how hard it was to break down the side from Sheffield, who placed all eight of their defenders and midfielders around the box to block any creativity. Therefore, a long shot can be the easiest way to break this low block, even if they offer a worse quality goal scoring chance than a shot from inside the box. Perhaps Fulham should have taken more long shots to not only try and score but to also force Wilder’ men to adapt and start to press more to prevent this, which could have opened up more creative opportunities as their defence is dragged out of position a little more. However, Parker seemingly sent his side out to play with a higher tempo in the second half, which did create more chances for the Whites, including the goal.

Sheffield United made one last push to take a share of the points via a free kick in added time. As Fleck stood over the ball to the left hand side of the Fulham box, the commentator stated that this could be “the most painful two points dropped of the whole campaign, if Sheffield United were to score now”, and he certainly wasn’t wrong. The Scot put the free kick into the box, with the ball curving around to meet Loftus-Cheek’s head at the far post. This headed ball ten found the head of substitute Kenny Tete, with the resulting header bobbling towards Alphonse Areola in the Putney End net. As Areola hurtled towards the ball to gather it up, Bogle saw his chance to get an equaliser and also ran to meet the ball. Instead, Bogle’s touch on the ball took it from where the Frenchman was swinging his leg to clear the ball, with his kicking leg instead hitting Bogle in the legs. However, before Areola’s leg met Bogle’s, the goalkeeper’s left leg reached the ball and taken it clear of the wing-back. In what can only be described as a 50/50 challenge by both players, in which both also put their body on the line, both then went down in agony and both clutching their legs. Thankfully, for Fulham, the visitors’ penalty appeals were then dispelled by VAR, which from my perspective is only fair given the 50/50 nature of the challenge.

What did you think of the match and the last minute incident?

Match Stats:

Fulham: 65.1%, Sheffield United: 34.9%
Fulham: 15, Sheffield United: 4
Shots on target:
Fulham: 7, Sheffield United: 2
Expected Goals:
Fulham: 1.21, Sheffield United: 0.98
Fulham: 6, Sheffield United: 20
Fulham: 1, Sheffield United: 3
Fulham: 6, Sheffield United: 4

Player Ratings:

Fulham: Areola (8), Aina (7), Andersen (8), Adarabioyo (7), Robinson (7), Reed (7), Anguissa (7), Lookman (8), Loftus-Cheek (7), Cavaleiro (7), Maja (6).
Subs: Tete (6), Lemina (6), Decordova-Reid (6).
Sheffield United: Ramsdale (7), Baldock (6), Basham (6), Jagieka (6), Bryan (6), Stevens (6), Ampadu (5), Fleck (6), Lundstram (5), Sharp (6), McBurnie (5).
Subs: Norwood (6), McGoldrick (6), Bogle (6).
Man of the match: Ademola Lookman.

Adarabioyo acclaims ‘massive’ week

Tosin Adarabioyo believes the last week could mark a ‘massive’ turning point in Fulham’s season after the Whites picked up seven points from three games to move within a win of safety.

The central defender was delighted with another solid display against Sheffield United last night that capped off a brilliant seven days for Scott Parker’s side. Ademola Lookman’s winner against the Blades followed a battling point at Burnley and a surprise success at Goodison Park. Adarabioyo told the Fulham website that the enormity of beating the bottom side at Craven Cottage was not lost on the squad:

“It was really massive. We all did fantastic. We know where we are in the league and where we want to get to, and those three points are a big step in that direction. It’s one of the turning points to our season. There’s been a few, we’ve been on a good run of form with two wins and two draws. We’ve found some identity and confidence so this could be one turning point, but I think we’ve had one already. Hopefully we can continue to chip away.

“Seven points in a week is massive. We’ve come out of a three-game week so to see us unbeaten is huge for us. Palace coming up is a massive game, it’s another game to look forward to, we’ll try and get some points out of it and keep moving in the right direction.”

Adarabioyo admitted that he will be trying to ignore the views of the pundits and talking heads in order to focus on the task at hand – preparing for another crucial clash against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park next Sunday.

I hope our fans fully believe we can do it after seeing us play. The outside world and media, that’s down to them to say what they want. We’ve shown more than enough to demonstrate we’re capable of doing that. We know what we’ve got left of the season and we’ll look to get the job done.

Andersen anchors Fulham’s survival surge

Fulham have had an awful lot of loanees lately, but it is hard to recall one who’s slotted in as seamlessly as Joachim Andersen. The Danish defender is more than just the critical piece in Scott Parker’s revamped rearguard – he’s a leader of serious stature as well. Vocal on the field, a calm and composed communicator who reads the game impeccably, Andersen’s importance to Fulham’s relegation battle was underlined by the fact he was handed the captain’s armband just four games into his Craven Cottage career and he has grown gradually in importance ever since.

Andersen’s partnership with Tosin Adarabioyo has blossomed into one of the league’s most successful. Before the pair arrived at Craven Cottage, Fulham had conceded eleven goals in four fixtures and looked like a basket case at the back. Oppositions were rampaging through a shambolic defence at will and relegation appeared a foregone conclusion. The task in front of Andersen and Adarabioyo – neither of whom had played a single Premier League minute – was considerable and yet they provided a reassuring sense of security from the outset, with the Whites grabbing their first point of the season straightaway at Sheffield United and a clean sheet against West Brom in their very next outing.

The dramatic metamorphosis to a more parsimonious presence at the back has continued over a longer period. Undoubtedly helped by Parker’s switch to a five at the back, Fulham have conceded just seventeen goals in the nineteen league games that Andersen has played in – with seven clean sheets. The latest of which, in the home win over bottom of the table Sheffield United, might prove to be the most crucial – lifting the Whites just three points away from safety. Adarabioyo leads the list of Premier League defenders for number of clearances, whilst Andersen himself is sixth. The Dane is second in the Premier League in terms of aerial duels won and tops the charts for number of interceptions in his own penalty area.

Andersen’s primary responsibility remains keeping the ball out of the net, something he has proven remarkably adept at, but his contribution to Fulham’s resurgence is far greater than mere defensive reassurance. In many ways, he’s the perfect fit for Parker’s own footballing philosophy. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, Andersen will regularly raid forward himself – he did it twice to great effect against the Blades – and frequently unlocks opposition rearguards with raking passes. One such marvellous through ball proved the difference last night, releasing Ademola Lookman into the inside left channel for the winning goal, but just as important have been his precise passes to find midfielders in space at the start of several Fulham moves. He was successful with 94 of them last night as Fulham passed the Blades into submission and rarely wasted a ball.

You sense the 24 year-old’s impact off the field has been just as transformational for Fulham’s fortunes. One of the greatest contrast between this team and the two that have been relegated from the top flight in the past seven years has been their resilience. Even when the situation seemed bleak, this side haven’t wilted. Much of that has to be down to the character of the individuals involved. Andersen, an organiser at every defensive set play, has impressed with his intelligence, professionalism and winning attitude which has clearly transmitted to his team-mates. In a relegation battle, these characteristics can represent the difference between success and failure. There’s simply no understating Andersen’s influence.

Andersen ‘buzzing’ after big win

Centre back Joachim Andersen was delighted after Fulham recorded a massive win by beating bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United at Craven Cottage last night.

The Whites moved to within three points of safety after Ademola Lookman’s second half strike sunk the Blades. The Danish defender felt Fulham’s recent improved performances fully merited a return of seven points in a week, which has breathed new life into Fulham’s bid to beat the drop.

Andersen told FulhamFCTV after the final whistle:

“When we came into the dressing room, everyone was buzzing and, like you said, it’s been a fantastic week and something we’ve been waiting for and something we deserved because we played so well in the last months and we didn’t get the results we wanted. This week, we are getting there and we’re getting seven points out of nine and that’s really positive and we just have to continue now.

He was delighted with another composed defensive showing that left goalkeeper Alphonse Areola almost a spectator until his late, vital intervention at the feet of Jayden Bogle.

“We spoke about how it was going to be a little bit the same game like Burnley. They also want to play long balls to McBurnie and I think we dealt with that really, really well – also against Burnley we did well. A clean sheet is always good – but to be fair, I just want to win, I don’t care about the clean sheet now! Of course, a clean sheet helps the team and if we can have a clean sheet and a win that’s always good.”

Andersen said that Fulham upped the intensity after the break having dominated the first half but failed to convert a number of presentable chances that had come their way.

“We spoke in the half-time [interval] about that. We were doing really well but we needed more people in the box because we need to have four or five players in there because it’s more difficult for defenders. I know that as a defender – it’s more difficult with bodies around you – and I think we did that better in the second half and we had some big, big chances to make it two or three nil. We have to do that better. We still have to finish our chances and that’s something we are working on.”

He denied that Scott Parker’s side had switched to a more direct approach after the interval, insisting that Fulham had always intended to try and play balls behind the Blades’ backline. It was Andersen’s own superb pass that unlocked the Sheffield United defence for Lookman’s winner.

“That was something we spoke about already before the game. There was no difference from the first half to the second half in the way we were playing with the ball. I think maybe there were a little bit tired and there was more space. Also, for the goal with Ade there was more space in behind. You know if you can get Ade or some of the other offensive goes one on one things are going to happen and luckily we scored.”

Andersen is targeting another three points at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace next week as the Whites look to pile more pressure on the teams directly above them in the table.

“Again, a game we need to win. A game we can win. I think Crystal Palace is a team that suits us; we just have to play our game. Like I said, we’ve been doing so well for months now and we just missed the small things. It seems that things are coming our way now. I hope we can build on that and continue.”

Parker ‘proud’ after massive Fulham win

Scott Parker was delighted after Fulham beat relegation rivals Sheffield United tonight to move to within three points of Premier League safety.

The Whites made it seven points from three games after Ademola Lookman’s second half strike was enough to beat the bottom of the table Blades at Craven Cottage. The Fulham manager acknowledged that the scrappy game was something of a battle, but told his post-match press conference of his immense pride in his side’s display.

“I’m very proud of the team. It’s been a tough week in terms of the games we’ve had to play, the travelling we’ve had to do. I think we all understood tonight what this game was about. The message to the team before the game was to focus on us, let’s not listen to the noise that’s been created around this game.

“Throughout this year there’s been one soul focus and that is us, that’s been my constant message. I know with that, us showing our quality and playing with a freedom we’ll get results, and I think that was proven tonight.

Parker saluted the character of his squad, who have grown in confidence throughout a challenging season.

This group of players are honest, want to learn, want to get better, understand the challenges of this league, what it brings sometimes and what you need in these moments. This team has constant belief, they’re a confident team and that’s the way we need to continue.

Parker insisted he wouldn’t be worrying about the outcome of Newcastle’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow night – preferring to concentrate on ensuring Fulham’s performance levels remain high ahead of another crucial clash with Crystal Palace next weekend.

“I’m not really looking at who’s above us or who’s around us. All I’m focusing on is us and what we need to do. We need to keep showing what we’ve shown for large parts of the season. This team has been so competitive, and if you’ve watched our games over the last 15 or 16 games, the fine margins are that a couple of draws should’ve been wins.

“At this present moment in time, my focus is on us and us continuing to get better. When the curtain comes down at the end of the season, we’ll either be good enough to stay in this division or not, but the main message to this group of players is ‘let’s keep fighting, let’s keep improving and let’s keep moving’.”

Lookman lashes Fulham closer to safety

This wasn’t a vintage Fulham performance. They never are at this stage of the season. Locked in a titanic struggle against relegation, it is more grit and guts that guile and pretty passing. Scott Parker admitted that beating Sheffield United was a must as he looked for the Cottagers’ survival bid to step up a gear and his side, although clearly in the ascendancy for much of the ninety minutes, just did enough. Ademola Lookman provided the crucial goal – a classy finish – after some artistry from Joachim Andersen had unlocked the Blades defence, although the hosts were indebted to some brave goalkeeping from Alphonse Areola for preserving their slender advantage.

The players’ roars of delight told you everything you needed to know about the importance of this success. In another time, those screams would have been drowned out by raucous Hammersmith End celebrations acclaiming another massive victory. Fulham fought to the bitter end, battling to protect the narrowest of leads – and, while there could be no doubting Sheffield United’s desire, the Blades still look blunt in the final third. Chris Wilder won’t be admitting it yet, but as he alluded to earlier this week, familiar failings in both penalty areas have left his workmanlike side too short to be competitive at the highest level this term.

The transformation in Fulham’s prospects has been stark over the past seven days. Seven points from three games might well have been beyond Parker’s wildest dreams – especially when you consider that two of those fixtures were staged at venues where Fulham have amassed a single league win in seventy years. This was not a complete domination like the one Everton suffered at Goodison Park and had much more in common with the nervy affair at Burnley in midweek, but it was no less important. You measure character in these moments of adversity and Parker’s side seem to have galloons of it.

The hosts tried to play at a high tempo from the outset but, despite buzzing around the Blades box regularly, they struggled to make a serious impression. Aaron Ramsdale flapped at a couple of corners but Fulham’s best openers were speculative shots from outside the area. Lookman saw one deflected wide, sent another straight at the goalkeeper and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa – restored to the Fulham engine room – fired off target.

It was when Fulham got runners behind the visitors’ back three that they looked the most dangerous. Ivan Cavaleiro, deployed so often as a lone forward this season, had looked lively in a more natural right wing role but spurned a glorious opportunity having darted into the penalty area, lifting an optimistic effort over when a cross appeared more appropriate. Ruben Loftus-Cheek flitted in and out of proceedings in the first period, spooning a shot high from the edge of the area as Fulham’s frustration that their spritely start hadn’t paid dividends began to surface.

Sheffield United had turned the game into a scrappy squabble but struggled to create anything of note, despite Wilder fielding two strikers after making five changes from the side that subsided so sadly at West Ham. Injuries have been the bane of his campaign – robbing the Blades of their regular central defensive trio – and misfortune struck again shortly after half-time when Chris Basham injured a hamstring having sprinted to try and subdue Lookman.

They almost went behind immediately afterwards when Loftus-Cheek tiptoed his way through the penalty area and appeared to have prodded the ball beyond Ramsdale, only for George Baldock to clear off the line. The reprieve was short-lived, though, as the opening goal arrived from a more direct type of football than you usually associate with Parker’s philosophy. Andersen’s cultured through ball travelled from the halfway line to release Lookman on the left edge of the penalty area and, when the winger got a bit of fortune, to progress past the stumbling Ethan Ampadu, he cashed in by lashing a low shot between Ramsdale’s legs and into the net.

Going behind only served to galvanise the Blades, who saw veteran striker Billy Sharp and Ollie McBurnie waste good chances in quick succession that might have survived VAR reviews for offside and they should have been level within three minutes. Sharp was the provider this time, capitalising on a careless concession of possession from Loftus-Cheek to play in Enda Stevens but Areola saved with his feet.

All of a sudden, Fulham were far less adventurous in attack. Ola Aina extended Ramsdale with a rasping drive from distance that needed to be tipped over, but the pressure was being applied at the other end of the field. Areola bailed out his backline again in the final minute of normal time blocking bravely with his feet as substitute Jayden Bogle looked favourite to reach a free-kick dropping dangerously inside the six-yard box. The review concluded there was no case to answer, with both players fully committed to getting a decisive touch.

There were seven minutes of added time for Fulham to suffer through but their bid to reel in Newcastle, now just three points ahead in seventeenth as they head to Old Trafford tomorrow, has now gathered serious momentum. Parker has attested all season that he believed that Fulham were far from done for – his players are now proving him right.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Robinson, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed, Anguissa; Cavaleiro (Tete 78), Lookman (Decordova-Reid 90), Loftus-Cheek; Maja (Lemina 86). Subs (not used): Rodak, Odoi, Hector, Ream, J. Bryan, Onomah.

BOOKED: Anguissa.

GOAL: Lookman (61).

SHEFFIELD UNITED (5-3-2): Ramsdale; Baldock, Stephens, Ampadu, Jagielka (Bogle 80), K. Bryan; Basham (Norwood 51), Lundstram (McGoldrick 74), Fleck; Sharp, McBurnie. Subs (not used): Foderingham, Lowe, Burke, Osborn, Brunt, McGoldrick.

BOOKED: Baldock, McGoldrick.

REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).

Lookman confident Fulham can survive

Ademola Lookman believes Fulham can climb out of the Premier League relegation zone and beat the drop this season.

Scott Parker’s side are currently six points from safety and face bottom of the table Sheffield United in what could prove a pivotal fixture this evening. Lookman, speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, has been encouraged by Fulham’s recent displays and believes the squad has the quality to put together a strong run in the second half of the season.

Lookman, who spoke moving about a tough childhood where he faced often not having enough food, revealed that Parker was a key factor in persuading him to return to London last summer.

“Scott Parker spoke to me a lot and I liked what he wanted from me and where he saw me in this team. I’m always thinking of being better and where the team is. But the highlight for me would probably be Leicester away. We won 2-1 and that mattered more than anything.”

His missed penalty in stoppage time at West Ham gets a mention, of course.

“When that incident happened I couldn’t even describe the devastation. I can only try to atone for that error. That was a key thing which people told me after that moment happened – it is about how I come back and use it to turn it into something positive.”

Lookman is insistent that the Cottagers can move out of the bottom three.

“Most definitely. We all believe it’s about us sticking to the task and working hard every day. We can do it and my focus is to help keep the team in the Premier League.”

Parker eyes parallels with Hodgson’s great escape

Scott Parker says Fulham can take inspiration from the great escape staged by Roy Hodgson’s side in 2008 as the Whites look to beat the drop this season.

Parker’s team are six points away from safety with fourteen games remaining and a successful survival bid would rank alongside the way Hodgson’s side bridged a six-point gap in their final three games with a memorable win at Portsmouth on the final day of the season. The current Fulham boss admitted that historical parallels can help to show his squad that their predicament is far from terminal.

Parker told his press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting with relegation rivals Sheffield United:

“All those stories are things you can look onto and give you hope. Roy was part of that, and that’s something that you look to. Hope mainly comes from what I see and the hope and the belief comes from knowing that we can win football matches and that’s the main thing and the main drive really.”

Hodgson himself reminisced about his memories of his survival act with Fulham during his Crystal Palace press conference this afternoon as well.

“Well, we were relegated on so many occasions. So we were lucky. We were lucky in many ways, that Jimmy Bullard hit a wonderful free kick and even more fortunate that Danny Murphy, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the penalty box, scored a goal with his head which is also something which he didn’t do every week.”

Parker will also be dipping into the psychological side of management – which has spoken about several times during his tenure at Craven Cottage – to support his players over the coming weeks.

“It’s a big challenge. I realise how powerful that psychological element is to a football player. Whether you’re playing at one of the best teams in the world or whether you are one of the best players in the world, it’s still a psychological influence on performance.

“I realise that, and that’s from my own experiences as well. I set out at the start of the season and tried to create a culture at this club that everyone feels very at ease, understands the pressures and what’s expected of them, but has a real belief that you want to improve and be self-critical. At the same time, try to give them some idea of what this season was going to look like.

My experiences as a player give me conviction in that because I understood how this would pan out from last year being with the team, to the quick turnaround, to players coming in, to the level up. I probably always knew it was going to be like that. Because I’ve been able to explain it to them, it’s not come as a surprise when we’ve come under a little bit. It’s a constant process to keep trying to develop players in that way.”

‘Huge step forward’ for Cairney

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Tom Cairney of Fulham scores his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Fulham and Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage on October 24, 2020 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Tom Cairney has returned to training as he continues his recovery from a knee injury – something that Fulham manager Scott Parker has described as ‘a huge step forward‘.

The Fulham captain has been welcomed back to a modified training programme at Motspur Park over the past week, marking the first time since December that Cairney has been involved in sessions at the club’s training ground. The 30 year-old midfielder has been out of action since appearing in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle before Christmas and consulted several specialists on how to best tackle what appeared a troublesome knee issue.

Parker updated his press conference this afternoon on Cairney’s progress:

“He went for a laser treatment which we thought might help speed up the process, and he’s come through that pretty well. He’s been training with us this week, albeit modified training, but nowhere near yet being stretched to a real intensity.

“But it’s a huge step forward for him but he’s been modified, and next week we’ll step it up again. It’s little steps for Tom and we’ll see how he comes out of them. At the moment that’s been good so long may it continue.”

Cairney has made just eleven appearances for Fulham this season – scoring a single goal in the defeat by Crystal Palace – and Parker concedes it is far too early to put a date on a potential Premier League return.

Parker prepared for ‘tough game’ against Blades

Scott Parker has admitted that Saturday night’s clash with relegation rivals Sheffield United is a must-win for Fulham – but is taking nothing for granted ahead of the Craven Cottage meeting.

Fulham won their third league game of the season with an impressive away display at Everton last week and earned a point against Burnley in midweek, but Parker knows only victories will help his side away from the drop zone. He knows exactly what to expect from the Blades, who have had their own mini-revival of late – winning three of their last seven league matches.

Parker told his pre-match press conference earlier this afternoon:

“A tough game, a real tough game. They’ve got a manager with vast experience who’s done an exceptional job at Sheffield United. I think we both realise what’s at stake and the battle that’s going to bring. My team will be prepared as best they can to try and get the points.”

The Fulham boss feels that morale is high within the camp as the Whites face what looks like a crucial run of fixtures.

“Confidence is very high, and that’s been the case for large parts of this season. Certainly our performance levels over the past three or four months have shown that. It’s a big game for us at the weekend, and we understand that, we know what’s at stake and we know what we need to do. Of course, performance probably comes a little bit secondary at this moment. We want a result, and that’s our main aim on Saturday.”

“Both teams are going to want to do all they can to win the game. There are 14 games left and of course we go into this one, after picking up four points in what was always going to be a tough week, and it will be another tough game with Sheffield United. I’ve said for a while now that we go into every game wanting to win it, and it will be the same on Saturday.”

Parker voiced his displeasure at the reports linking Fulham defender Terence Kongolo, who featured for the club’s under 23 side this afternoon against Sunderland, with a breach of lockdown rules when he celebrated his birthday with friends last weekend.

“I think like anything you can imagine my reaction to it was not best pleased in the current climate in terms of what everyone is facing and what we’re in. It’s not something which is acceptable to be honest with you. I had the conversation with Terence, he didn’t know a lot about it, (that) is my understanding of it, it was a surprise party and the people who planned it have put him in a very vulnerable position. It’s something which we will deal with as a football club in-house.”