As the players walked out to Liquidator, a 1969 Harry J. All Stars classic used by many football clubs, both sides knew that anything less than a win would likely liquidate their hopes of survival. Fulham figures have insisted that the ‘wins are coming‘ recently and the trip to West Brom appeared to be a perfect opportunity to pick up a third league victory. The disappointing draw means the Whites have collected just two points from two meetings with our rivals in the bottom four in what looked like a pivotal week. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such a return could prove terminal to our survival hopes.
Scott Parker’s side started encouragingly on a worn and snowy surface, utilising the now familiar 5-2-3 system, with a few subtle tweaks. It might be a stretch to suggest he’d been reading my thoughts, but the restoration of Aleksandar Mitrovic to the starting line-up chimed with the overwhelming sentiment post-Brighton and utilising the Serbian as a false nine came to fruition fantastically. He dropped deep, dragging West Brom defenders out of position, and creating space for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fulham’s inside forwards to exploit the space behind the home defence – as Bobby Decordova-Reid did devastatingly early on.
Out of possession, Mitrovic pressed Albion’s back line, often winning the ball high up the pitch. Mitrovic was arguably the catalyst for Fulham’s dominant start, as yellow shirts flooded forward to great effect. But the visitors were frustratingly unable to turn their dominance into goals. The outcome would probably have been very different if Decordova-Reid’s second shot had gone in rather than striking the post – and, despite eight shots on goal, Fulham had the slenderest of leads at the interval. For all their flawless football, there’s no substitute for ruthlessness in the final third, something Albion proved at the start of the second half.
After what must have been a lively team-talk, Sam Allardyce introduced his new centre-forward Mbaye Diagne. The Senegalese international, signed on loan from Galatasaray only last night, seems like the sort of option this Fulham side would love, with his mixture of size, strength and speed. Whilst he did not score himself, he immediately disrupted the Fulham backline, who had a largely serene first period, and Kyle Bartley grabbed an equaliser just two minutes after half time.
Heads definitely dropped at this point, with Fulham quickly slipping behind after Diagne’s dart down the read led to Matheus Pereira poking in from close range. A defeat looked on the cards until Parker shuffled his deck, bringing on Harrison Reed and Ivan Cavaleiro for the final quarter. The Portugese winger scored a fine diving header – from a lovely Reed cross – to consolidate Fulham’s position as the Premier League’s draw specialists. The point doesn’t do much to help either start and with the Whites unlikely to sign a striker in what remains of the transfer window, the future looks rather bleak.
You can’t lay too much of the blame at Parker’s door. He has done incredibly well to make Fulham competitive at a higher level after such a shambolic start and reintroducing Mitrovic removes the one major concern about his team selection. The hierarchy’s reluctance to bolster his attacking options seems strange and Parker appears resigned to making the best of what he has.
What did you think of the game? How can Fulham improve?
Agree with Louis. We’re set up about as good as we can be now.
5-2-3 is the right structure for us. We conceded twice but I think were a bit unlucky with deflections etc today.
I think the team selection was as good as we have with Mitro in now.
Subs were made to influence the game in time. I think Parker has it right now…eventually. It has taken 19 games to get here but we are as good as we can be in my opinion.
We now need a bit of luck and togetherness. Obviously a striker coming in would have helped but if this is the squad it is hard to see what else Parker can do now. Maybe try and install that killer instinct to go after games a bit more and be positive but heh we’re not a top Prem side so that is going to be tough. COYW
It was very disappointing we should have had the game wrapped up by half time. Decordova-Reed and Loftus Cheek looked good in the build up but fluffed it when in sight of the goal. The former scored one and should have definitely had two or even three. In the second half our defence fell from its previous high standards with in my opinion only Anderson living up to his reputation the others were running scared. It does prove Mitro must be in the team he held the ball up and looked dangerous when crosses came in. I also would much prefer Harrisson Reed in preference to Lamina. We have all be slating Cav and what happens, he comes on as sub looks good and scores an excellent equiliser. It looks like no incomings, so we must continue the fight and turn some of the draws into wins. Scotty cannot do more ad he will need to shuffle his pack at times. I really cannot make mind up about Loftus Cheek maybe my expectations were too high!!
I was amazed to see Reed dropped to the bench. His fighting spirit would have been essential in such an important game as this. In the event, I needn’t have worried as we totally outplayed West Brom, looking a class apart. They looked totally devoid of confidence and just couldn’t come to grips with our dominance. Can anybody recall Areola having so little to do?
Unfortunately, despite our dominance, we failed to put the game beyond Albion’s reach. Decordova Reid took his goal splendidly but should have buried his chance that hit the post.
Loftus Cheek-so full of promise-but so disappointing when it really mattered. Lookman’s chance, IMO, was definitely a penalty.
Mitro, recalled instead of Cavaleiro finally, was excellent in that first half; some deft touches allied to strong running. But, as half time approached, I think we all knew that it would be a different story in the second half. So many times Fulham have paid the price for not converting dominance into goals. And so it proved again. To, suddenly, be 2-1 down was a huge shock. Albion starting fighting for every ball and Fulham withdrew into a pathetic shell allowing Albion to take over the midfield. Too many of our players-Lemina, Loftus Cheek and Decordova Reid in particular-did not seem up for the battle and, as usual, Parker was slow to react. Finally, Harrison Reed was introduced and proceeded to boss the midfield and, irony of all ironies, our much derided Portugese quasi striker, Cavaleiro, grabbed the equaliser.
So, four more points dropped this week.
Now we face a Leicester team that will hardly be generous to us.
We came through a spell of games where we faced all of the top teams and acquitted ourselves admirably but we have shown this week that we are unable to go up a level against the lesser teams-mainly due to that cutting edge in front of goal.
If Albion had won, they would have gone above us. As it is, a rejuvenated Newcastle team outplayed Everton to move further away from us. What a signing Wilson, Man of the Match yesterday, would have been for us.
Now we can only hope that a Harry Kane-less Spurs can react well to their Liverpool loss and beat Brighton so that we have, at least on paper, something tangible to chase.