I’m struggling to come away from today’s draw with Cardiff City satisfied. I suppose I could be relieved with a point against the league leaders but it didn’t really feel like that, did it? Going a goal up with just 15minutes remaining should have been a lead that we held onto, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Historically we haven’t been very good at protecting a lead at one-nil in the last ten minutes, but it’s still frustrating watching three points turn into one. Aside from the result, there are lots of talking points from today’s game and I am going to attempt to split them into three categories- the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Hurray, we have depth! – Imagine last year if we had lost six players through injury. We would have been playing half of our academy! Instead, we have a squad with depth to cover events exactly like this. No Cairney, Kebano, Fonte, Piazon, Soares or Ojo yet we were still able to play a strong(ish) line up. With everyone fit, three of the above at least would be starting, with the other two likely to be pushing for spots so the fact that we could still field a strong enough line up is a real positive. The biggest concern for me was up front, with us having to play without a recognised striker, but in all other areas we seem to be coping much better than last year. I was also very impressed with Mollo’s debut. He looks like a useful player and could have an important role in the coming season.
- Du du du du du du, RYAN SESSEGNON- Our brightest spark today in my opinion. He looks to have hit the gym over the summer as well so is proving to be much harder to push off the ball than last season. At only 17, a lot of his recent growth is purely natural, but an amount of it is down to a good strength and conditioning programme laid out by a combination of England and of the guys at the club. His footwork is very good and today he was playing in his preferred position of left wing, but he also contributed defensively so his work rate is also very good at the minute. He was dangerous throughout, scored our goal and his celebration is certainly enough to suggest that he is loving life at Fulham. It is going to be so exciting watching him grow over the next year or so. What a player!
- Points tally still equal to last year- I know we are wanting to improve on last year’s points total, but considering the injuries that we have I’m not too worried about staying on equal footing for now at least. If we look at a direct comparison between the points won last year and this year against the same teams, we haven’t lost any ground (7pts).
- Kev Mac, the captain- I reckon I’m not the only one in the building who thinks that Aluko was given the armband in the absence of Cairney in an attempt to keep him at the Cottage. Really, the job should have been given to Kev Mac, and today it finally was. For me, McDonald was the player who improved the squad the most last season. How many times in the years before his arrival were we badly missing a roving defensive midfielder who was willing and able to sit in front of the defence, protect them and then when he had the ball do something positive with it instead of lumping it? I genuinely think we have to go all the way back to Dickson Etuhu before we can really say we had that protection in front of our back four. He deserves the armband when we are without Cairney without a doubt.
- Ordinary without Cairney? – Jokanovic has confirmed that we will still be without Cairney, Ojo, Soares and Piazon on Wednesday night when we welcome Hull to the Cottage. The big one there is obviously Tom Cairney as he is so pivotal to our success. He had a blinder against Ipswich and therefore the team had a blinder. Today Johansen looked much more like himself and McDonald controlled the game reasonably well, but I am beginning to think that we don’t look too out of the ordinary without Cairney. Maybe that is harsh, but I’m not at all saying that we look bad. But I do think that he possesses the magic that really makes us click. The sooner he gets back, the better.
- AK47 firing blanks again- Unfortunately I am yet to be convinced about our young Frenchman. His first touch leaves a lot to be desired and his decision making is poor. But I don’t want to be too hard on the guy. He is young and certainly does have something, it’s just hard to tell what that something is yet. He without a doubt caused problems for Cardiff when he came on today, but he also let them out of jail free on a couple of occasions. I think it’s telling when he is left out of the side for a non-striker, but hopefully given time he will come good.
THE UGLY. The REALLY REALLY UGLY-
- The Ref- This section only has one part to it. I honestly think that that was one of the worst refereeing displays that I have seen in years. It wasn’t that he made any big decisions that were bad, it was more that he constantly made basic mistakes that just didn’t let the game flow at all. Both teams could feel hard done by on a couple of occasions where there was no advantage played while other times he just gave fouls when literally no one else in the ground saw anything wrong with a challenge. Want some fun facts? Of course, you do. Today’s match between Fulham and Cardiff had the highest rate of fouls and cards of all Championship games this weekend. Two teams who no one could describe as being particularly dirty made 40 fouls between them (18 by Fulham, 22 by Cardiff) while there were 7 cards shown (4 to Fulham, 3 to Cardiff). The next highest foul count was 33 at Norwich v Birmingham, but most of the other games were in the 20s. I have watched a lot of football, and seen games that were littered with free kicks because one team was trying to prevent the other team from getting into their flow, but I don’t honestly think that that was in either Fulham or Cardiff’s game plans today. Instead, it just seemed as though Tony Harrington had forgotten what a foul was, so just blew up everything. Some of the yellow cards were laughable. I still have no idea what Mollo’s or Joe Bennett’s was for other than Harrington losing all control and letting Neil Warnock into his head too much. There were a lot of decisions that seemed completely bizarre and I think that with a different referee, that game would have played out completely differently. I don’t blame him for Fulham not winning, but I do think that both Fulham and Cardiff had a lot of attacking promise that was thwarted by the man with the whistle. Tony Harrington, you have had a stinker.
Overall, when we just focus on Fulham there is more to be happy about that unhappy when all things are considered. When we are back to full strength, I don’t think that there will be many teams able to handle us, but we really do need to start turning all the potential into points. On to the next one.