Scott Parker apologised to the Fulham faithful for the Whites’ unacceptable performance after they were thrashed 3-0 at Craven Cottage by the Championship’s bottom side, Barnsley.
The Fulham boss admitted that he hadn’t seen such a pitiful showing coming and resolved to put things right before Friday’s trip to Derby. The home side were second best throughout as a brace from former Fulham forward Cauley Woodrow put the visitors on the way to a richly deserved victory.
Big shock. I didn’t anticipate or see that one coming. I hold no excuses. We were beaten by a better side today, a side who had more intensity about them. We were second best at times and we didn’t deserve anything out of the game. I am shocked, I am bitterly disappointed, I am gutted. I didn’t see it coming. The fans have come here, they didn’t see it coming, and I can only apologise for the performance today because it wasn’t what we’ve come to expect, but sometimes these things happen.
The important thing is to keep going, keep driving, keep being those strong characters in the changing room, keep improving, and not dwell. We come out the back of a six game unbeaten run. This team has done remarkably well over this period, have stayed in it, and narrowed the gap.
On the 14th of December I think it was 12 points to the ones above us, so we’ve done very well. This is a bump in the road and this is what this league brings, there are no surprises. You’re playing the bottom of the league team who are fighting for their lives who can come and do what they did to us today. We need to learn from that and understand that.
The Fulham manager refused to pass judgement on goalkeeper Marek Rodak, who gave away a first half penalty and then was culpable for Barnsley’s second goal after dashing off his line and being lobbed by Jacob Brown. Parker told his post-match press conference that he wasn’t going to make any hasty decisions.
He’s made two errors today Marek, he’d be the first to hold his hands up and say that. The last thing I’m going to do is sit here and criticise him because he’s been nothing short of fantastic since he came into the team. The biggest challenge for Marek now, and the challenge I set to all of them is: during these moments let it kill you, let it burn inside you, of course, but the true character of great teams, great players and great people, is when you come back in on Monday morning and you’re brighter than you’ve ever been, you work harder than you ever have.
Why? Because the chips are down a little bit. I’m not going to judge Marek today, I’m going to judge him on Monday morning when he walks in the building, and I hope he looks me in the eye, and I hope he shows me from the first minute of training until the end that he’s going to improve and he’s going to keep going.
That’s not just Marek, that’s what I ask of all the players. Today can happen to anyone, you can have bad days, you can off days, of course you do, but the most important thing for me is that every single one of them comes in, doesn’t point fingers, points the finger straight back at themselves and works harder than ever to put wrongs right, have a big week next week, and let’s go to [Derby on] Friday and see what that brings.
It had to happen, didn’t it? The returning Cauley Woodrow wrecked Fulham’s ambition of overhauling Leeds with a double as bottom of the league Barnsley produced a shock to rival their opening day win over the Whites on a wet and windy afternoon at Craven Cottage.
Woodrow, who burst onto the scene as a teenage goalscorer when Fulham were battling against relegation from the top flight, never really got a fair crack of the whip after scoring a hat-trick in front of new boss Slavisa Jokanovic when the Serbian took over from Kit Symons. He has hardly stopped scoring since moving to Oakwell last year and his brace helped the Tykes to their first win at Craven Cottage in more than two decades.
Marek Rodak, who has been outstanding in the Fulham goal since replacing Marcus Bettinelli earlier this season, had a wretched afternoon. He gave away an early penalty after hauling down Jacob Brown having spilled a loose ball as he was challenged him in the box and then dashed disastrously from his line in pursuit of Woodrow’s through ball, miss it and allow Brown to loft home a critical second. Maybe the Slovakian’s brain was scrambling by the concession of such a needless penalty – but it was a real rush of blood.
Woodrow wrapped a convincing win for Gerhard Struber’s side with just over ten minutes to play. The former England under 21 international breezed past Michael Hector and snuck a low shot into the far corner from an exceptionally tight angle – sparking delirium amongst the travelling fans. It was impossible to argue that Barnsley didn’t deserve it. This was a fluke – they outfought, outpassed and outplayed a fragile Fulham side from the outset.
Parker made four changes from the midweek draw at Millwall, but his team never got going. They were lethargic in comparison to their visitors, who tore into every challenge and, unlike many visitors to the Cottage this season, showed ambition and adventure in possession. Both Woodrow and Conor Chaplin, whose goalscoring exploits have been a rare bright in Barnsley’s season, spurned decent opportunities in the early exchanges before Rodak fielded a rather weak effort from Chaplin after Luke Thomas had opened up the Fulham defence.
The penalty, which Rodak fiercely disputed, set Fulham back but it shouldn’t have been such a bodyblow against a side low on confidence. The hosts’ first half was hopelessly error-strewn and, even though they saw more of the ball, there was little that hurt Barnsley. Josh Onomah and Ivan Caveleiro had wild shots from distance and replacement goalkeeper Brad Collins was only seriously tested in stoppage time by a Tom Cairney daisycutter that was drilled straight at him.
Fulham’s only real period of any pressure came immediately after the interval. Collins made a smart stop as Aleksandar Mitrovic, horribly isolated for much of the afternoon swivelled into space inside the box before a goalmouth scramble presented openings to Kevin McDonald and Onomah in quick succession. But the barrage of home attacks never really materialised – and Fulham failed to heed a warning when Mike Bahre’s through ball almost reached Chaplin, only for Rodak to smother it.
Perhaps that was why the Slovian goalkeeper inexplicably charged off his line leaving himself so stranded by Brown’s lofted finish. That goal sparked Parker into life on the touchline – though the Fulham manager’s decision to withdraw Cairney, the likeliest source of a killer pass, in favour of Harry Arter was baffling with Fulham needing to make more of the running. Dropping Bobby Decordova-Reid robbed the Whites of real dynamism – and it was asking too much for him to turn the tide as a substitute.
Fulham switched to a back three but that only served to unbalance them further as Barnsley threatened to run riot. Woodrow lashed a low drive inches wide of the far post and then a long kick from Collins ran all the way through to Chaplin, but the former Portsmouth striker failed to hit the target. Belatedly, the hosts rallied as Cavaleiro flashed a volley fractionally wide before Collins made excellent stops to thwart Decordova-Reid and Kamara, before Woodrow grabbed his second to put the contest to bed.
A miserable day for the home fans was summed up in the final ten minutes. Mitrovic connected with a brilliant run and cross down the left from Kamara but could only head straight at Collins from six yards out. Onomah was twice denied a consolation by two superb saves from the Barnsley goalkeeper in the space of a stoppage time minute. He turned aside a curler that was heading for the far corner before producing an even finer save to tip a venomous strike onto the crossbar – underlining that it wouldn’t be Fulham’s day.
Parker now has a serious job to do in making sure that this was an aberration rather than the beginning of the end of Fulham’s push for an automatic promotion place. Two testing trips to Derby and Bristol City will tell us whether the Whites still have the stomach for the fight. On this evidence, that has to be called into question.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; S. Sessegnon (Kamara 65), Bryan, Hector, Ream; McDonald (Decordova-Reid 53), Onomah, Cairney (Arter 54); Knockaert, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Odoi, Christie, Johansen.
BARNSLEY (4-1-2-1-2): Collins; Ludewig, Solbaeur, Halmo, J. Williams; Mowatt; Thomas (Dougall 81), Baehre; Woodrow (Marsh 90); Chaplin (Schmidt 86), Brown. Subs (not used): B. Williams, Walton, Oduor, Simoes.
GOALS: Woodrow (pen 24, 79), Brown (51).
REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).
Fulham get an early opportunity to put the disappointment of drawing with Millwall, offside decisions and the failure to move in front of Leeds behind them when bottom of the table Barnsley visit Craven Cottage tomorrow afternoon. The Whites will have been dismayed by their underwhelming performance at the Den on Wednesday night but in truth it could have been a lot worse for Scott Parker’s side, given that Millwall might have nicked what became an even contest after Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s controversial equaliser.
Parker might have cause to reflect on his own decisions after his side failed to seize the advantage in the Championship’s automatic promotion race. It may well be that Kevin McDonald, restored to the starting line-up to such devastating affect in recent weeks, might not be able to start three games in seven days any more but would this game have been a more suitable one for him to miss. Harry Arter’s display in south east London was rusty at best and his petulance towards the end reminded me of the ill-discipline that saw him inexcusably sent off at Cardiff earlier in the season. The Whites’ badly missed some ballast at the base of the midfield.
Parker’s plumping for Aboubakar Kamara didn’t really come off either. The Frenchman was subdued and lethargic for much of the match. Ivan Cavaleiro impressed off the bench – but his arrival came much too late as Fulham seemed powerless to shift the tempo of a contest that suited the hosts far more than them. Congolese winger Neeskens Kebano was barely given any time at all to turn things round, but almost managed to steal three points with an athletic header from a late corner that rattled the crossbar and ran away to safety. There’s a case for Kebano, always a livewire, to get a little more match action.
The biggest disappointment of this week arguably came off the pitch with the news that Terence Kongolo will miss the remainder of the season having sustained a serious foot injury in the final ten minutes at Blackburn. Kongolo’s presence in the squad was a huge boost to Fulham’s promotion prospects with depth in central defence severely lacking previously. Parker might well be left depending on Tim Ream and the imperious Michael Hector for the remainder of the season, given that Alfie Mawson has just undergone knee surgery. There’s certainly little margin for error at the back now.
Barnsley visit the Cottage in a whole heap of trouble at the foot of the table. That sunny opening afternoon when the Tykes were good value for a narrow win at Oakwell seems an awful long time ago. They have managed just three wins in their subsequent 31 league games – and are already nine points from safety. Gerhard Struber had initially overseen an upturn in form when he arrived in south Yorkshire but Tuesday’s deflating defeat by Birmingham City put another dent in a young side’s already fragile confidence.
Barnsley have a track record of springing surprises against the top sides this term. They have already held leaders West Brom to two draws and former Fulham striker Cauley Woodrow, who has scored nine times in 21 appearances so far this term, would like nothing better to shine on his old stomping ground. There’s always been the suspicion that Woodrow, who broke into the Fulham side as a teenager with the Whites battling against the drop from the Premier League, didn’t get a fair crack of the whip under Slavisa Jokanovic – and he’s been in great goalscoring form from the moment he made the move to Oakwell.
He could be paired with former Portsmouth striker Conor Chaplin in attack if Struber decides to go for broke in search of another shock success. It’s not as if the Tykes don’t have the talent to pose as many problems as Storm Dennis tomorrow afternoon. Alex Mowatt has been an outstanding performer at this level for many years, whilst Mike Bahre ran the show when Barnsley embarrassed Parker and Fulham on the first day of the season. Struber will need to shuffle his pack with injuries and fitness issues robbing him of the services of defender Mads Andersen, goalkeeper Sami Radlinger and midfielder Marcel Ritzmaier. It will be a tall order for them to keep Fulham’s possession-based football at bay for another ninety minutes.
MY FULHAM XI (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Hector, Ream; McDonald, Onomah, Cairney; Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs: Bettinelli, Christie, S. Sessegnon, Johansen, Knockaert, Kebano, Kamara.
Some very sad news to report this afternoon. Fulham legend Jimmy Conway has passed away aged 73 having fought a brave battle against dementia in recent years.
A classy midfielder or winger, Conway was born in Dublin in August 1946. He began his footballing education with Drumcondra junior side Stella Maris before moving on to Bohemians in 1964. He made the move to London to join Fulham as a 20 year-old two years later for £12,000 and quickly became a regular in an entertaining side, establishing himself as a firm fans’ favourite at Craven Cottage.
He scored on his first-team debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup and, after two seasons in the top flight, stayed with the Londoners when the Whites were relegated. Conway scored 20 goals in 1969/70 as Fulham missed on promotion, but netted eight times in 29 games during the following campaign to help his side return to the First Division as they finished second in the league, only a point behind Preston.
Conway spent a decade with the Whites, scoring 76 goals in 360 games and was never cautioned or sent off, a record which makes him the twentieth highest appearance maker in the club’s history. The Irish international, who played with his brother John during his time at Fulham, was also part of the side that famously went all the way to Wembley before losing the 1975 FA Cup final to West Ham. A scorer of sensational goals, including one from an outrageously acute angle at Gillingham in 1971, Conway was immortalised in the famous ‘We’ve got Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Conway on the wing’ song that can still be heard today. He eventually moved to Manchester City for £30,000 in 1976 and, although never a regular at Maine Road, was part of the side that finished runners up to Liverpool in 1977.
Conway, who won twenty caps for the Republic of Ireland, then spent two years with the Portland Timbers in the United States, where he made more than 60 appearances. He spent the majority of his time in America after ending his playing career, enjoying a two-year stint as assistant manager at the Timbers and then a six-year spell as manager of Pacific University. He was in charge of the Oregon State Beavers for eight years before returning to Portland, where he served as assistant coach for a further nine seasons.
Conway’s love of football was passed on to his son Paul, who also played for Portland, and Carlisle United during the 1990s.
We send our best wishes and condolences to Jimmy’s family.
Fulham’s promotion push has been dealt a huge blow with the news that defender Terence Kongolo will miss the rest of the season after picking up a foot injury in the win at Blackburn Rovers.
The Dutch international, who signed from Huddersfield on loan at the end of January, had only made two appearances for the Whites and was injured after coming off the bench at Ewood Park during Fulham’s 1-0 win on Saturday.
Fulham boss Scott Parker didn’t hide his disappointment:
Obviously we’re absolutely devastated for Terence. He’s come in, a player which we liked and one we thought could bring something to the squad and to the team. I think I’ve said on numerous occasions that he probably gives us a different attribute to what we have in defence.
It’s just such a shame for him that in his second game he comes on and in his first action he damages his foot. He’s going to be out for the remainder of the season, and he’ll be missed. It’s gutting.
Kongolo’s injury means that Fulham are once again shorthanded in central defence at a crucial time in the season. Alfie Mawson is expected to be a long-term absentee after undergoing knee surgery, whilst Maxime Le Marchand is also sidelined by injury and that leaves Tim Ream, recent signing Michael Hector and Denis Odoi as Parker’s only senior options at centre back.