Fulham edged an entertaining West London Derby under the lights at Craven Cottage thanks to an Aboubakar Kamara double. Kamara caused a fair few raised eyebrows, including my own, when his name appeared on the team sheet, but he took a huge step towards proving that he is a solid stand in for the suspended Aleksander Mitrovic.
Atrocious defending gave Rangers the lead inside the first few minutes, with Joe Bryan caught out of position and then Marek Rodak pushing the ball into the path of Jordan Hugill for a simple finish. There have been so many question marks over our defence this season, and it doesn’t look as those questions will be going away anytime soon. Tim Ream played like his head was still on a plane somewhere travelling home from International duty, while we had too many players trying to over pass the ball.
While Rodak was poor for the opening goal, he did redeem himself on a few occasions throughout the first half with quick thinking to prevent Nahki Wells from getting a shot away when he was one on one, before making a crucial save from Hugill just before half time.
Our first goal came from the man who has divided opinion since his arrival at Craven Cottage. It was a brilliant piece of play and delivery from Denis Odoi, perfectly placed for Aboubakar Kamara to head home for his first goal of the night to draw Fulham level at the break.
The second half started on a more even footing, but still QPR were proving a threat from the wing-back positions and Alfie Mawson had to be at his best and block a number of shots and crosses in quick succession. Harrison Reed had to be replaced by Bobby Reid after picking up a knock early in the second half. Reid was straight into the action, carving out an opportunity for Anthony Knockaert instantly.
While the switch was forced, there can be no doubt that Reid made a difference to a Fulham team that had struggled to use the ball effectively in the first half. Stefan Johansen was pushed slightly further back to allow Cairney and Reid to roam forward, and Parker’s side became much more dangerous straight away. Fulham’s second of the night came from a high press, the sort of play that teams so often play against us. Bobby Reid gave QPR keeper Joe Lumley no time to think about his clearance, and he could only blast straight at Johansen. The Norwegian took one look, and released Kamara who maintained his composure and found the bottom corner to double the lead and his tally for the night. Fulham very nearly added a third within minutes, with Reid putting through Knockaert but the winger could only find the base of the post with his shot.
We have too often this season went into the closing stages of a game with a slender lead only to end up with a draw, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy about the last fifteen minutes but tonight seemed to be Fulham’s night. Some tenacious play from Ivan Cavaleiro in the final 10minutes was a particular highlight of mine as it shows that this Fulham team is becoming much better in terms of game management.
Kevin McDonald was brought on for Cavaleiro for the five minutes of injury time to help see Parker’s boys through to a second successive victory and to send them to fourth in the table ahead of the weekend’s games.
Job done in the first West London derby of the season at a time when Fulham have been under a great deal of pressure. While it wasn’t a perfect performance, it was the sort of game that we have failed to get points from in the past. We can be proud of our team tonight.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Reed (De Cordova-Reid 54), Johansen, Cairney; Knockaert (Christie 76), Cavaleiro (McDonald 90+1), Kamara. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, O’Riley, Onomah, Kebano.
GOALS: Kamara (27, 64).
QUEENS PARK RANGERS (5-3-2): Lumley; Kane, Manning, Hall, Leistner, Wallace; Amos (Chair 66), Ball (Mlakar 81), Eze; Hugill, Wells (Scowen 66). Subs (not used): Barnes, Smith, Pugh, Bright-Samuel.
GOAL: Hugill (3).
REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).