Any Saturday that starts with a Katsu Curry and finishes with us being top of the league cannot be classed as a bad one. In what felt like a continuing trend for the season my trip to the cottage went hand in hand with yet another wet and rainy walk through the residential streets of SW6. In anticipation of this my acquaintance and I had quadrupled down on our intake of high quality Japanese beer over said katsu in Central London prior to heading out west on the Piccadilly line instead of risking the uncovered but still packed beer gardens of Fulham Palace Road. There was however just about enough time to squeeze in one of Fulhams famous barely cold bottles of Carlsberg in the ground before finding our seats in the Hammersmith end.
As the wet Craven Cottage pitch received an additional soaking from the sprinklers before kick off it became clear that the club shop had been doing a roaring trade with their Boa Morte name printing in recent weeks. Our Assistant manager must be way ahead of everyone bar perhaps Mitrovic when it comes to fan shirt real estate. Being only the second game of the season I’m still to familiarise myself with my season ticket neighbours in H5 although luckily I’m already on first name terms with the concrete pillar that obscures my view. Off the back of 2 straight wins there seemed to be a real air of optimism among the crowd and while the weather had dampened the cardboard clappers it had certainly not subdued the atmosphere.
Fulham remained unchanged from the Millwall game with the born again John Michael Seri anchoring Midfield alongside Josh Onomah and the boy wonder Fabio Carvalho. Gazzaniga, fresh off a mid week endorsement from Mark Crossley describing him as one of the best keepers in the league continued in goal despite my longing for Marek Rodak. Our opposition lined up in their tiger stripes with very few familiar names. The most recognizable being the aging figure of Tom Huddlestone warming up as a substitute. His long hair bringing back bad memories of that season in the Premier league when he vowed not to get a hair cut until he broke his goal duck which of course came during our trip to the KC and a horrific 6-0 defeat. Unlike Middlesbrough Hull seem to have struggled in selling their allocation given the Putney end only seemed at best two thirds full.
Fulham as usual started quickly with lots of possession but not much in the way of clear cut chances. A decent Onomah volley went wide of the post and Seri took what had to be one of the worst corners I have seen in a long time. It would have been one that even the king of hitting the first man Bryan Ruiz would have been proud of. Whether or not the delay to the game that saw Tim Ream hobble off injured and replaced by Alfie Mawson affected Hulls concentration I can’t be sure but Mitrovic’s headed opener from a much better Seri corner occurred before Ream had even made it down the tunnel.
As much as Ream has been good in the first few games I can’t help but feel his tenure in the side has limited longevity should we achieve promotion and Alfie Mawson (If he is able to stay fit) could well still develop in to a solid Premier league level defender and deliver on that promise he once showed at Swansea. It has to be said that he was imperious in the air all game and I don’t remember him losing a single header.
Barely ten minutes after the first we found ourselves two up with Carvalho yet again finding the net following some good work by Robinson. Alongside the obvious cheers this resulted in continued “sign him up” pleas from the Hammersmith end as we seemingly again run the risk of mismanaging a promising product of our youth academy out of the club.
Much like the first goal the second came only seconds after another enforced change for Fulham having had to replace Kenny Tete with striker come wide player come full back Bobby Reid who as per usual did everything that was asked of him. Despite every shot Fulham had seemingly going on target we once again struggled to kill the game off completely with a third goal. Cheers of “Shoot” when Tosin picked the ball up just outside of the box would usually have resulted in a ball in the Thames but even this tested the keeper. Hull on the other hand offered very little going forward but as we reached half time the words of my acquaintance “a decent team talk and a swig of Lucozade and there is no reason they can’t get back in this in the second half” suggested we still needed another to be certain of a result.
Evidently the Lucozade didn’t help and a fairly uneventful 2nd half saw no change in the score line. I’m not sure what the referee had to drink but it certainly didn’t result in Fulham getting many decisions going their way after the break. The closest we came to a third was a misplaced Mitrovic header from another better Seri corner.
The embarrassment of riches we have in our squad was highlighted again with the introduction of Anguissa for Carvalho after seventy minutes. As comfortable as we were with a two goal lead I certainly wasn’t comfortable enough to embrace every Fulham pass with an “Ole” like many others and instead chose to keep tabs on the West Brom game ensuring that even at this early stage of the season our goal difference was enough to put us top of the pile. The noise from the away end never seemed to get going either. Not that there was much for them to cheer about but another flap at a cross from Gazzaniga in the final few minutes could on another day have resulted in a nervy run in.
It certainly wasn’t a match that will live long in the memory. Just as two weeks on from the last home game the Riverside stand is a few more plastic seats towards completion, Fulham are another three points closer to where they want to be as well. The difference in style under Silva is slowly becoming more noticeable and was evident in one of Antonee Robinsons best performances I have seen in a while.
We departed the Cottage under cover of rain again having gained the win that was expected. The feeling of optimism has perhaps been replaced with entitlement and expectation already but it’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable.
Upon arrival at Hammersmith we were greeted by a hoard of QPR fans more cocky and antagonistic than you would expect from people who had just witnessed a 2-2 home draw with Barnsley. Sometimes I take for granted the nature of our own fans when compared to other less desirable traits of our neighbours. It’s easy to forget the pains of last season so perhaps we should enjoy the comfortable home wins while we can.
Needless to say Stoke will be a much tougher challenge on Saturday!