There’s a tendency to be a bit down at the moment. No manager, a wretchedly poor performance and drawing with a side that hardly lit up the allsvenskan last season might suggest that the glass was only half full. But, when you remind yourself that this is still pre-season and with our World Cup contingent still recovering from their African odyssey, there’s plenty of time for Ray Lewington to put things right.
Lewington, who could be in charge at Craven Cottage for longer that he expected after the botched attempt to lure Martin Jol from Ajax, started with a strong side in Sweden last night and Fulham went in front after only eight minutes when Zoltan Gera reacted quickest to nod home a deflected effort from Simon Davies.
Fulham kept the ball well in the early stages, with Danny Murphy looking a little sharper than in his previous outing at Bournemouth, but gradually the sharper fitness of the hosts, who have already played a competitive league fixture, began to tell. Only an expertly-timed tackle from Stephen Kelly prevented Marcus Olsson from equalising.
The reprieve was merely temporary after an error from David Stockdale, whose failure to gather Emil Salomonsson’s speculative shot, allowed Joe Sise to convert the simplest of close-range chances. Moments later and the Swedish side were ahead. Sise sprinted onto a defence-splitting ball from Anel Raskaj and confidently slotted past Stockdale. The 20-year-old was revelling in the chance to take on Premier League opposition and he might have had a third after tormenting Aaron Hughes on the edge of the box only for Stockdale to atone for his previous error with a fabulous reflex save.
Lewington made wholesale changes at half-time but Halmstad were now clearly in the ascendancy. Amir Kujovic saw his bending effort come back off the crossbar and Alexander Prunt volleyed wide.
Fulham did eventually stem the bleeding. Damien Duff, who had moments earlier fashioned a decent chance for Bobby Zamora, beat his man with a lovely bit of skill and cleverly rolled the ball across for Gera, who drove in his second of the evening from 20 yards. The times when the Hungarian was mocked by some of the Cottage faithful are long since past.
The Whites did have chances to win in after that, with Chris Baird heading over from a free-kick and late substitute David Elm failing to finish a one-on-one, but it would have had been hard on hearty Halmstad. Lewington will be hoping for some more of the cobwebs to have been blown away by the time Fulham face Malmo on Tuesday.
HALMSTAD (4-2-3-1): Malmqvist (K. Johnsson 45); Salomonsson (Miller 45), Zvirgzdauskas (Gustafsson 45), Lundberg (Jönsson 45), Järdler (Johansson 45); Raskaj (Saevarsson 45), Rosén (Wrele 45); Görlitz (Prent 45), Anselmo (Kujovic 45), Olsson (Bala 45; N. Johnsson 45); Sise (Baqaj 45).
GOALS: Sise (25, 30)
FULHAM (4-4-2): Stockdale, Kelly, Konchesky (Smith 62), Hughes, Baird; Murphy (Dikgacoi 70), Greening, Duff, Davies (Elm 78); Gera; Zamora (E. Johnson 70).
GOALS: Gera (9, 58).
REFEREE: Martin Olsson.