An evening game under the Craven Cottage lights against a sleeping giant who we’ve been pretty successful against in the last few years. Following a determined, resolute display at Old Trafford which, on another day, could’ve yielded three points, there was a genuine optimistic buzz among the Fulham faithful. And, while we displayed plenty of that tenacity and discipline that got us that point on Sunday (only the second time ever we haven’t lost away to United, I believe?), it was ultimately a fruitless match.
We’ve said that a fair few times under Rene now: “We’ve played well but haven’t taken our chances when we had them”, or “Got terribly unlucky”. It is at least an improvement on his predecessor, but this is a critical time for Fulham Football Club, where points are paramount. Performances don’t keep you in the league, after all.
I should add that we seem to have discovered a sense of defensive discipline where there previously had been none, and this, to be fair, is cause for optimism. We have a couple of special individuals in forward positions – Holtby, who has been nothing short of 10/10 since joining, and Mitroglou, with whom we essentially lie our goalscoring hopes – and our counter attacking has been effective when we’ve managed it. West Brom won’t be so forward with their play though, and we will still be vulnerable to counters of our own when we open up a bit, but our full backs were pushed further forward and we displayed an inventiveness and freedom which we didn’t allow ourselves to against United.
Furthermore, Rene’s trust in enthusiastic youth is paying off, giving way to the toxic lethargy which has been our trademark for the last 16 months or so. A special mention must be made to Burn, who’s reputation as a player will reach the heights of his eyebrows at this rate, and Tunnicliffe, who has also come from the Championship to fit in seamlessly alongside our established midfielders. Bent had a really good game yesterday, in a thankless role, and Sidwell over the last two matches has been nothing short of a monster. As has Richardson for that matter, with Kvist’s resolve and intelligence adding shape and discipline to our midfield.
Nonetheless, this means we’ve picked up just one point from our last six games in the league while being knocked out to Sheffield United at home. No matter what they might say, morale in the team must be low, especially after such a heartbreaking loss like yesterday’s – and seriously, what the f*ck was Riether thinking when he made that challenge, absolutely appalling defending and having that linger over us for ten days is just as bad as losing a point.
We will need to go on a magical, sparkling run, one which we haven’t done for ages, instigated by our new signings, beginning at the Hawthorns in a couple of Saturdays. And of course it can be done (who imagined West Ham would be top 10 when we kicked off yesterday from where they were a month ago?), especially if we clock that balance between defence and attack… But I can’t see it happening. We’ve had a few false starts already this season, of ‘kick starting our season’, ‘xx game league’ ‘xx cup finals’, and madness would be expecting a different result. Four points behind 17th, with five needed to escape the bottom three owing to our awful goal difference, with no indication that we can pull off the wins we need… It just seems like too much.
I trust that no one else is as down as Fulham as me, because my word do the club need us to believe.