You could forgive Kit Symons’ confidence after the final whistle. For the first time, Fulham’s caretaker manager allowed himself to publicly consider the prospect of being given the job on a permanent basis and his application appears unbeatable after the Cottagers climbed out of the relegation zone with a convincing 3-0 win over Charlton Athletic at Craven Cottage tonight.
Symons is heavily favoured to be endorsed as Felix Magath’s full-time successor by chairman Shahid Khan when the American returns to London in a fortnight’s time as his NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars, play at Wembley. Symons has now won five of the eight games since he replaced Magath and has completely transformed the mood at a club who looked dangerously devoid of ideas and far too close to completing consecutive relegations during the German’s time in charge. The team that Symons has build looks far removed from the sorry side that went eight games without a win at the straight of the season and they were far too good for a Charlton side, who had only lost one game all season prior to this encounter.
Skipper Scott Parker wasted little time in marking his return to the starting line-up with a goal against the club with whom he started his professional career. The former England captain, who came through the youth academy at the Valley, had been rested for the midweek trip to Rotherham but clinically smashed home a cross from Ross McCormack just six minutes in after full-back Chris Solly had criminally surrendered possession to Parker in his own final third. It was a mistake which seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Addicks, whose most fluent football was reserved for a twenty minute spell at the start of the second half as they sought a way back into the contest.
By then, though, they were two goals adrift. Fulham’s fast start saw them double their lead on twelve minutes. The visitors failed to deal with a cross from Kostas Stafylidis and, although McCormack’s measured shot was palmed away by Stephen Henderson, Hugo Rodallega was on hand to steer home the rebound from close range. It might have been worse for Bob Peeters’ side but full-back Tim Hoogland, who has been in fine goalscoring form for Fulham so far this season, inexplicably sent a free header wide from a corner and Rodallega’s deflected strike just before the break flew inches over the bar.
Charlton emerged after the interval with renewed vigour and the orange shirts pressed Fulham back for much of the second period. For all their possession and territory, the visitors rarely tested Marcus Bettinelli. The Fulham goalkeeeper’s first real save of note came when he clawed away a header from George Tucudean after a succession of corners and Franck Moussa sent a shot narrowly wide. Hoogland had the ball in the net at the other end but was flagged offside after Dan Burn’s header had sparked a goalmouth scramble and Bryan Ruiz spurned a glorious chance to put the game to bed, by spooning a shot from the edge of the box high in the Hammersmith End.
Both Rodallega and the lively Lasse Vigen Christensen had gone close to extending Fulham’s lead before the pair were involved in creating the clinching third goal a minute from time. The Danish under-21 international burst forward and released Rodallega into the inside right channel with a perfectly weighted pass. The Colombian tricked his way inside Michael Morrison and curled his shot around Henderson and into the far corner. Such a comprehensive win might have Khan arranging a press conference far sooner than might have been envisaged. Symons certainly deserves the opportunity to build on his encouraging start.
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Hoogland, Stafylidis, Bodurov, Burn; Parker; Kavanagh, Christensen; Ruiz (Woodrow 76); McCormack (Zverotic 87), Rodallega (Roberts 90). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Hutchinson, G. Williams, Smith.
GOALS: Parker (6), Rodallega (12, 89).
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-4-1-1): Henderson; Solly, Fox (Ahearne-Grant 68), Ben-Haim, Bikey; Cousins, Jackson, Wilson, Bulot (Morrison 77); Moussa (Berg Gudmundsson 59); Tucudean. Subs (not used): Pope, Thomas, Harriott, Munns.
REFEREE: Keith Stroud (Dorset).