The pressure on Slavisa Jokanovic grew last night after a lackadaisical Fulham side slumped to the bottom of the Premier League table following an abject defeat at Huddersfield Town. The Terriers recorded their first home goal for 659 minutes as well as their first Premier League win of the campaign and fully deserved the three points for their desire and putting together the only real quality on display. Jokanovic delivered a scathing assessment of his side’s lack of fight after the final whistle and questions will be asked about his future with his side now rock bottom of the table.
David Wagner celebrated the best possible anniversary present after Huddersfield marked his third year in charge with a vital win. From the outset, the home side looked the more likely winners: more determined in the challenge, more progressive with the ball and more threatening in the final third. They set the tempo early, with a high-octane pressing game that Fulham struggled to deal with, disrupting the visitors’ time on the ball and their possession-based approach. Town almost grabbed the lead from a move that encapsulated their strong start to the contest, with the energetic Jonathan Hogg snapping in to steal the ball from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Philip Billing smashing the crossbar with a venomous strike from distance.
It became clear that a low on confidence Fulham side were fragile and there for the taking. Jean-Michael Seri barely moved out of first gear in the heart of the midfield, whilst the battling qualities of powerful midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa were entirely absent. There was even an absence of endeavour about the manner in which Fulham conceded. Anguissa afforded Alex Pritchard all the time in the world to turn on the edge of the box and fire a deflected shot that Sergio Rico did well to claw behind. Then, Chris Lowe’s corner was headed out of the penalty area by a combination of Mitrovic and Tom Cairney at the near post. The Fulham captain stayed down nursing a head injury whilst Lowe whipped a teasing ball into the far post where Christopher Schlinder and Timothy Fosu-Mensah contested the aerial challenge, with the ball looping in last off the Manchester United loanee.
It might have been worse before the break but for Rico’s alert reactions when a deft header from Hogg almost crept into the corner. Jokanovic took immediate action at half-time – sending on Cyrus Christie and Kevin McDonald for Fosu-Mensah and Luciano Vietto, but the lack of an attacking substitute to make the difference in the final third was to prove costly. Mooy lashed over as Fulham struggled to deal with a long throw from Billing before Christie at least gave Fulham some attacking intent down the right flank. The Londoners looked laboured going forward for much of the contest – typically their only shot on target, a fine finish from Schurrle, was ruled out for an offside against Mitrovic in the build up.
The Serbian sent their clearest chance – a free header at the far post from a corner – wide, but Huddersfield looked the more likely to add to their lead as time ticked by. Denis Odoi was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he handled just inside the box under pressure from Huddersfield substitute Laurent Depoitre. It was another Town substitute, Isaac Mbenza who had the chance to put the game to bed but he snatched horribly at his shot when he seemed clean through on goal and the ball flew harmlessly wide.
Fulham pushed on in the final ten minutes but only created one real opening. Cairney carved open the Huddersfield defence with a beautifully weighted through ball that sent Schurrle away down the left wing. The German zigged and zagged his way into the penalty area but placed his finish wide of Jurgen Lossl and the far post. Added time came and went with a whimper – and the sight of Ryan Sessegnon, possibly Fulham’s best performer on a forgettable evening, lying face down on the turf in the centre circle for fully five minutes after the final whistle will live long in the memory.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (3-4-1-2): Lossl; Zanka, Schlinder, Kongolo (Bacuna 90); Hadergjonaj, Lowe, Billing, Hogg; Mooy, Mounie (Depoitre 56), Pritchard (Mbenza 82). Subs (not used): Hamer, Smith, Sobhi, van la Parra.
BOOKED: Billing, Mbenza.
GOAL: Fosu-Mensah (o.g. 29).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rico; Fosu-Mensah (Christie 45), R. Sessegnon, Odoi, Le Marchand; Anguissa, Seri, Cairney; Vietto (McDonald 45; Johansen 65), Schurrle; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Ream, Chambers, Mawson.
BOOKED: Fosu-Mensah, Mitrovic.
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Manchester).