Goalscorer Matt Smith saluted Fulham’s resolution and greater sense of organisation after the Whites kicked off their campaign in the finest possible style – with a win over Newcastle United at Craven Cottage last night.
The 6ft 6in striker escaped the attentions of Jamaal Lascalles to head the winner from a Tom Cairney just before half-time – and Smith is relishing the opportunity to lead the line after the summer departures of Moussa Dembele and Ross McCormack.
The 27 year-old told Get West London he didn’t feel under pressure to step up having been preferred to Cauley Woodrow up front.
I keep personal targets close to my chest. I want to play more games as I only started five last season. I want to contribute to wins for the team.
I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I don’t think scoring goals has been the real issue. Ross and Moussa scored the majority last season, but the creativity was always there in the side so I was confident we had the players who can finish them off.
It was goals going in at the other end that was the Achilles heel. The organisation has been key in making sure we’re more resilient and organising the defence, particularly on set pieces.
Smith insisted confidence was high in the Fulham camp after a successful pre-season, despite the pundits largely dismissing their chances of surprising Rafa Benitez’s well-fancied side.
We were written off from the start but that’s not important. What’s important is the belief in ourselves and show a lot of good character. Footballers would be lying if they didn’t read the papers or on social media.
It’s important you don’t read too much into it. We believe that we can perform at the highest level. It’s a really good start and sets the benchmark for the season. It’s a nice feeling with the manner of the game and the way we defended.