A day after Shahid Khan unveiled the five-man committee that would select Felix Magath’s successor, Kit Symons compiled the perfect job application as his Fulham side produced their most complete performance of the season in putting four past Bolton Wanderers and piling the pressure on a beleaguered former team-mate in Dougie Freedman.
Symons, who was told last week that he would be considered by the Fulham owner’s selection panel as a serious contender to succeed Magath, has made no secret of the fact that he covets the job at a club he knows so well. Stability is one thing that has been lacking during Khan’s first year at the helm since assuming ownership of the west London club from Mohamed Al-Fayed. So too have consistent performances. Three straight wins have transformed a fragile, young side into a team that can play the kind of crisp passing football that could frighten far better sides than Bolton on this evidence.
Symons made a decisive break with the Magath regime by recalling three international figures marginalised under his German predecessor. Fernando Amorebieta, Hugo Rodallega and Bryan Ruiz all found the net as brittle Bolton were swept aside this evening and offer the kind of quality that Fulham had lacked during their eight game winless streak at the start of the season that proved a traumatic introduction to life below the top flight. There was time for sparkling cameos from three youngsters with bright futures down by the Thames: the talented trio of Welsh international George Williams, England under-21 striker Cauley Woodrow and mesmorising midfielder Patrick Roberts, coveted by a whole host of top clubs, threatened to run an overworked Bolton defence ragged into the closing minutes.
Fulham were quickly into their stride, with Ross McCormack having an early goal chalked off for offside after he followed up Ruiz’s instinctive volley. Bolton’s reprieve lasted all of five minutes. The lively McCormack found time and space in front of the back four and Rodallega was on hand to profit when Matt Mills slipped at the most inopportune moment. The Colombian forward, high on confidence after his winner at Birmingham on Saturday, needed no second invitation to sweep McCormack’s measured chip into the far corner. There was almost a second moments later when Kostas Stafylidis, preferred to Emerson Hydman in midfield, carried the ball forward and saw his 25-yarder deflect wide off the sprawling Jay Spearing.
Bolton’s best opportunities came courtesy of the former Liverpool midfielder, who was sent off here three years ago for a late challenge on Moussa Dembele. His right-wing cross almost fell for Liam Feeney but Tim Hoogland’s terrific tackle averted the danger, whilst another dangerous delivery allowed former Fulham midfielder Darren Pratley to graze the crossbar after ghosting in unnoticed at the back post.
Fulham enjoyed plenty of possession but looked set to have a slender lead at half-time after Ruiz’s clever curling effort drifted inches wide, before the Costa Rican midfielder’s exquisite delivery from a stoppage time free-kick found Amorebieta stealing in between two defenders at the near post to guide home a looping header. The hosts still had to weather a prolonged period of Bolton pressure after the restart, sparked by a treble change from Freeman which saw Mark Davies, Jermaine Beckford and Joe Mason arrive just five minutes into the second half. The visitors enjoyed plenty of territory but clear-cut chances eluded them, with Neil Danns shooting wastefully into the Putney End from distance.
Symons’ side had already served notice of their threat on the break with McCormack’s delicate chip after a sumptuous Ruiz backeel landing on the roof of Andy Lonergan’s net. The crucial third goal came in the 67th minute and was the culmination of a flowing move. Ruiz stroked a searching ball into the inside right channel for Rodallega to chase and the former Wigan striker surged into the Bolton box before squaring for the tireless Lasse Vigen Christensen to sidefoot home his first goal for the club.
To their credit, Bolton continued to search for a route back into the contest and created two of the best openings of the half. Fulham were indebted to a fine saving tackle from Nikolay Bodurov when Mark Davies darted dangerously into the penalty area and then Beckford, a rumoured transfer deadline day target for Fulham, dragged a shot from Feeney’s fine cross disappointingly wide. Freedman’s frustrating evening was rounded off when Fulham added a fourth with Christensen turning provider for Hoogland, who lashed a first-time finish in off the far post.
With the Hammersmith End acclaiming Symons, there were chances for Fulham to increase the margin of victory still further as Staflyidis skied a decent chance from the left and Roberts saw a low shot bravely blocked, but the thumping nature of Fulham’s victory had already been underlined. A sterner test of the caretaker’s credentials awaits at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Hoogland, Amorebieta, Bodurov, Burn; Parker (G. Williams 71); Stafylidis, Christensen; Ruiz; McCormack (Roberts 80), Rodallega (Woodrow 78). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Kavanagh, Hyndman, Smith.
GOALS: Rodallega (9), Amorebieta (45+2), Christensen (67), Hoogland (79).
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Herd, Moxey, Mills (M. Davies 52), Dervite; Ream, Spearing; Feeney, Danns, Pratley (Mason 52); C. Davies (Beckford 52). Subs (not used): Kenny, Garvan, Lee Chung-Yong, Medo.
BOOKED: Herd, M. Davies.
REFEREE: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).