Fulham’s stuttering September comes to a close with the visit of Swansea City to Craven Cottage this evening. The early momentum behind Marco Silva’s side has dissipated in recent weeks and the Whites will need to find a response following a disappointing draw at Bristol City as they did with a win at Birmingham having been beaten at Blackpool. There is no doubting the quality of players at Fulham’s disposal, but the head coach admitted he was frustrated by both his side’s lack of intensity and failure to finish at Ashton Gate at the weekend – while there is clear evidence that one of the promotion favourites are badly missing Kenny Tete and Fabio Carvalho, who will both be absent again tonight.

Swansea, now under the stewardship of one of the country’s most progressive coaches in Russell Martin, will offer a stern test of Fulham’s stomach for the fight that seemed sorely lacking in the early stages on Saturday. It was something of a coup for the Swans to lure Martin from Milton Keynes to replace Steve Cooper and he has navigated his way through injury and covid concerns as well as the lack of a pre-season to start sketching out more of an adventurous alternative to Steve Cooper’s pragmatism. Swansea have stitched together five clean sheets, the latest coming in a narrow win over Huddersfield at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, but Martin insists they will be looking to attack in west London tonight.

That sense of enterprise was on full display during the first half at the weekend when the Swans cut through the Terriers at will and should have been out of sight. They were left hanging on a little towards the end as a second goal didn’t arrive – something Fulham fans will recognise from our own frustrating trip to BS3 – but Martin’s new charges will make for dangerous opponents, especially as they may sense a soft centre in Silva’s side. As his players get used to what is a fluid and bold 3-4-2-1 system, Swansea should be much more closer to matching the two previous play-off campaigns – or even going one better.

The shrewd summer signing of Flynn Downes, a player long rumoured to be on Fulham’s radar, from Ipswich Town appears to have had an immediate impact. Paired with Matt Grimes, whose own close season links with the Whites proved something of a saga, in central midfield, the 22 year-old has recovered from coronavirus to make an outstanding start to his Swansea career, dictating play from a deep-lying role and displaying all the poise that saw Premier League scouts flock to Portman Road in previous seasons. Martin’s innovative use of two number tens, allowing the likes of Jamie Paterson, Oliver Ntcham or even Liam Walsh to unlock opposition defences, might be particularly profitable against a Fulham midfield that has appeared much more clunky in recent outings.

The visitors are likely to be without Michael Obafemi for this fixture but can call upon Dutch striker Joel Piroe, who has already scored five times in eight appearances this term. Given that Silva’s defence has started to give up far more shooting opportunities in recent weeks and Martin wants to be bold in SW6, the former PSV Eindhoven forward will fancy his chances of adding to tally in front of the Sky cameras.

Fulham badly need a return to winning ways with their confidence clearly jolted by recent setbacks. That they have dominated their last two league outings has not been in question, with erratic finishing costing them valuable early season points against both Reading and Bristol City. The only positive to be taken from the usually reliable Aleksandar Mitrovic wasting three clear openings in stoppage time had to be that all three opportunities were created by Antonee Robinson, whose lack of consistent quality crosses had been previously criticised. In the absence of Carvalho, the Whites lack dynamism in the final third – especially now sides have doubled up on Harry Wilson. Domingos Quina has yet to impress as a number ten and Silva’s preferred central midfield trio is not working at present.

I would be shocked if Harrison Reed doesn’t return to the starting line-up this evening, but the composition of the engine room probably requires some tinkering as well. Reed raided forward from a more advanced role with his customary energetic at Ashton Gate after being introduced at half-time, but Fulham missed his eye for danger in front of back four and proved incapable of resisting the home side’s assault after Nigel Pearson gambled with his own substitutions. Jean Michael Seri’s redemption has surprised us all, but the experiment with him as a quarterback at the base of the midfield leaves the back four without a sturdy shield.

It surely has to be time for Neeskens Kebano to be offered a run in the starting line-up again. The Colongese winger, whose performances carried Fulham through the play-offs the last time we were in the Championship, enlivened a thoroughly forgettable forward display at Bristol City with a desire to take on his full back and get to the byline having been summoned from the bench for the second half – creating the goal with a delicious cross almost immediately. He was pivotal to the commanding advantage established early on at Millwall and could count himself very unfortunate to have been consigned to a substitute role once Wilson returned from suspension.

MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Seri, Onomah; Wilson, Kebano, Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Mawson, Robinson, Chalobah, Quina, Decordova-Reid, Muniz.