Fulham are on a high. A four game winning streak has propelled us from 8th to 3rd in the table and we now have a tiny cushion between ourselves and the teams below us. It’s a nice position to be in, but the form of West Brom and Leeds means that we have at least 5points to make up if we are to break into the automatic promotion places. The frantic nature of the Championship means that the games are coming thick and fast so by Christmas day, we know a lot could have changed.
We are about to enter a run of four extremely tough fixtures, all against teams in and around us. It’s an opportunity for us to continue to climb and to continue to stamp our authority on this promotion run, but if it goes badly wrong, we could easily undo all the good work that we have done since that awful 3-0 defeat to Hull at the start of November.
There are lots of positives to take from our performances
over the past four matches. The form of Mitrovic is sensational, Marek Rodak has
become instrumental in between the sticks and the transformation of Aboubakar Kamara
shows that those working behind the scenes at Fulham are doing an incredible
job. I was happy for us to get rid of Kamara in the summer. I doubted his
footballing ability, his maturity and his commitment to the team, but I have
been happily proved wrong. He seems to have developed a football brain, and the
rest of the squad have clearly forgiven him for his antics last season. When Mitrovic
was suspended I was concerned, but Kamara came in amidst a wave of criticism
and panic from Fulham fans and showed us exactly why Scott Parker was right to
have faith in him. He still has work to do, as do all footballers, but he seems
to be a different player from last season.
Tomorrow we host a very decent Bristol City team, currently
sitting in 5th place but just three points behind us. They battered
Huddersfield Town last time out 5-2 and will be looking to draw themselves
level with us with victory tomorrow. They have plenty of goals in their side
with Andreas Weimann, Josh Brownhill and Famara Diedhiou all a handful for
defenders. But as much as they are good going forward (they’ve scored the same
amount of goals as we have in the league this season), only six teams have
conceded more goals than they have so far.
One thing that fans going to the Cottage should remember;
City fans are planning on paying tribute to Benik Afobe after the sudden death
of his daughter last week. Afobe is injured at the minute but there will be
some sort of tribute during the game.
If we want to be serious automatic promotion contenders, we
have to be able to navigate a tough fixture schedule. The next four games will
show us if we are as good as we think we are, or if we are nowhere near it.
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
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
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
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.
After last week’s disaster at home to Hull, it’s imperative
that Scott Parker and his team get a result away to Birmingham tomorrow. With
the rumblings surrounding Parker’s position, we are past the stage were he can
get away with the team putting in a decent performance. He needs all three
You can describe Birmingham’s season as being inconsistent. Seven
wins, which is one more than Fulham have, go alongside seven defeats and a draw
leaving them down in 12th. We are just one point better off than them
in 8th, highlighting once again just how tight this Championship
season is. They are in pretty good form with nine points out of the last 15
available, but they did lose last time out to Cardiff City.
Goals have been reasonably hard to come by for Birmingham
with only 16 scored and with top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz having just scored four.
They’ll be facing us without captain Harlee Dean after he was sent off against
Cardiff last weekend. Outside Dean and Jutkiewicz, a lot of the Birmingham
squad are relatively unknown but we should be aware of 16 year-old Jude Bellington.
We know only too well how exciting it is when you can include a youngster who
has come through the youth system at a club. He may be just 16, but that doesn’t
mean that he should be underestimated. He’s scored two goals from midfield this
season and looks to be a real prospect.
For Fulham we will be missing Joe Bryan after he picked up
an injury last weekend. Parker will have the same old question about who to
start in goal with Marek Rodak available again after his one game ban for his
red card two weeks ago. Bettinelli didn’t cover himself in glory up against
Hull last weekend, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t get the nod ahead of Rodak.
In the matches were Rodak has been included he hasn’t done anything for me to suggest
that he is the stronger option. It’s an area that needs addressed in January,
but maybe for now we stick with Betts.
Despite the fact that we have the league’s current top goal
scorer in Aleksander Mitrovic, we haven’t managed to score in 3 of the past
four games. We need to take advantage of the fact that Birmingham are without
their main leader tomorrow and rattle them early on. The good news is that we
haven’t went three Championship games without scoring since January 2015. We don’t
have a great record against Birmingham though, with four losses in the past six
History and form aside, this is a must-win game for Fulham.
We have dropped far too many points already this season, and the only reason we
are still within touching distance of the top too is because no-one in this
league seems to want to run away with it. It is still incredibly close, but
soon the gap will be too hard to pull back. We are getting to the stage were
Parker’s job is on the line. Hopefully he has enough in his locker to get him
It’s that time of the year again. You know the time when
nothing seems to go right for Fulham? The loss at home to Hull City was for me
the poorest result of the season, not because of the scoreline but because of
the absolutely dire performance that went along with it. Something just wasn’t
right, and it’s been that way for at least the last few games. Scott Parker is
in a bit of a predicament. His style of play has come under fire in recent
weeks, but he has hit back suggesting that he won’t be changing his ways
I can understand why Parker wants to stick with his philosophy.
He is a real student of the game, and won’t have committed to a style without a
great deal of thought, but his approach still needs some work. We have seen it
work, the results against Millwall and Reading being the two most recent
examples, but we have also seen too many occasions where it has been a disaster.
On Saturday at home to Hull, we had 75% of the possession yet had one shot on
target. When you have the talent of Tom Cairney, Mitrovic, Bobby Reid etc in
your side it’s criminal to think that we forced the Hull keeper into a save on just
one occasion. I can sort of understand what Parker is trying to do, but the
team aren’t executing it properly. Whether that is down to what’s happening on the
training pitch, or that other teams have figured us out, I’m not sure.
The question now around the fanbase is whether Scott Parker
is going to last as Fulham boss. I’m still avoiding the ‘Parker out’ campaign,
but I completely get why the question is being raised. I spoke with a work
colleague recently who thinks that Parker has lost the dressing room. Shahid Khan
was in town on Saturday, so if you can’t get the players motivated to play well
in front of the boss then when can he motivate them?
However, I just don’t think sacking him at this stage would
be helpful. The performances need to start improving, but I think to change the
manager now would just further disrupt the squad. When Slavisa Jokanovic
started slowly, a lot of people wanted him gone, but they stuck with him and it
paid off. We are only 15 games into a very long season, and we know that things
in this division can change so quickly. There are only 8 points between first
place and twelfth, with no team really running away with things so I’m not
going to take the doom and gloom approach. I believe that sticking with Parker
for now would be better than causing more disruption to the squad. I think that
he will have had an impact in the likes of Cairney and Mitrovic staying. And
let’s remember that he is still new to management and is learning his trade.
Mistakes are going to happen early on, yet we are still doing enough to still
be in contention for promotion.
In recent history, Fulham generally haven’t had fun when we
have travelled to Stoke. We have played away at the Britannia Stadium, or the Bet365
Stadium as it is now known, seven times since 2008, losing five times, drawing
once and winning once. One of those defeats was a League Cup fixture while the
rest were in the Premier League. During their Premier League tenure Stoke
became a side who no one liked facing. Well-drilled and defensive, they caused
one or two upsets as well as generally becoming a very difficult team to beat.
Our sole victory there in recent times was thanks to some Bairdino magic back
at Christmas of 2010. Two ridiculous strikes from the Northern Irishman inside
the first 10minutes helped us to a 2-0 win. Wonderful scenes.
One of the worst days for me as a Fulham fan was when our thirteen
year term in the Premier League came to an end after a pathetic 4-1 defeat to
Stoke under Felix Magath. That day was nothing short of a Fulham calamity in
the way we were set up and the way we played. Yes, relegation was looking likely
anyway, but that performance pretty much summed us up under Magath. For that to
be our last visit to Stoke, it’s understandable why so many of us have bad memories
and a feeling of unease when we look ahead to tomorrow.
But we are in a new era at Fulham. Yes, last season was
rocky, but Fulham under Scott Parker and the ownership of Shadid Khan are a
different force. We still have issues to sort out defensively, but we are a
side who could feasibly take points off anyone in the division. We still have
maturing to do under Parker, but our side consists of the talent needed to get
promoted again. However, tomorrow is also somewhat of a banana skin. Stoke have
had a horrible season and sit bottom of the table. They have taken one measly
point out of a possible 18 at home with Nathan Jones under a lot of pressure at
the helm. But fitting nicely with the Championship’s unpredictability, they did
beat then leaders Swansea City away from home last time out. Classic
We are currently unbeaten in six league games, but draws are
becoming far too frequent. If we want to go up automatically, we need to put teams
at the wrong end of the table to bed comfortably. If you have watched much of
Stoke this season you will know that defensively they have been all over the
place. Jack Butland in goal is an England International, but he has made
mistakes time and time again. Confidence is low in the Stoke camp. We know what
that is like after suffering so badly last season and we know that once the
heads drop, it’s very hard to get anything from a game. That’s what we need to
do to Stoke tomorrow, make their heads drop early on. The longer they feel like
they are in the game, the harder it will be for us.
We know that you should never underestimate a team
struggling at the bottom of the table, but we should be targeting 3 points
tomorrow. We can’t afford to slip up against the bottom placed team.