Fulham sign Archer

Fulham have this morning confirmed the signing of former Millwall and Oxford United goalkeeper Jordan Archer on a free transfer.

The Scottish international has initially signed a short-term contract until the end of the season, with Fulham holding an option to extend the deal by a further year. The 26 year-old is thought to have been snapped up after longstanding goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli indicated his unhappiness at Craven Cottage having been dropped by Scott Parker.

Archer, who began his career by coming through the ranks at Tottenham Hotspur, established himself at Millwall, making 166 appearances in four years at the New Den and helping the Lions win promotion from the Championship. He was briefly at League One Oxford earlier this term, keeping three clean sheets in six games, and told Fulham’s official website that he was delighted to join the club:

“I’ve been watching a lot of Championship football this year, and Fulham are playing good, attractive football. There are top quality players here, so to be a part of this group is something I couldn’t turn down.”

Mitrovic injury ‘doesn’t look great,’ says Parker

Fulham boss Scott Parker says the ankle injury sustained by Aleksandar Mitrovic in the win at Hull City ‘doesn’t look great’.

The Serbian striker was stretchered off with ten minutes to play at the KCOM after seeming to twist his ankle when he went up for a header. Parker will await the results of scans on the injury in the coming week, but is not optimistic.

Fulham are without too many natural replacements for Mitrovic, who has scored 18 goals in 26 appearances in the Championship this season. Aboubakar Kamara replaced the former Newcastle forward in the one league campaign he has missed so far, whilst teenager Jay Stansfield was on the bench today after making his debut against Aston Villa in the FA Cup last week.

Parker told the press after the final whistle:

‘It’s too early to say. We’ll scan him and see where we are. He’s injured himself pretty badly. It doesn’t look great at this present moment in time. [If] you lose someone who’s scored 18 goals, it’s never going to be easy,’

Cavaleiro curler clinches Fulham win

Ivan Cavaleiro’s mangificent curling strike sealed Fulham’s first win at Hull City in nearly a quarter of a century as Scott Parker’s side held on for a scrappy win on Humberside.

The Portuguese winger celebrated making his loan move from Wolverhampton Wanderers permanent earlier this week with the game’s only genuine glimpse of quality – bending a brilliant finish around goalkeeper George Long and into the far corner from the left angle of the penalty area after Reece Burke had slid in to halt a surging run from Anthony Knockaert. The visitors had to clung onto Cavaleiro’s sixth goal of the season – as the second half became increasingly bitty and the three points were marred by an ankle injury to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was stretchered off with with ten minutes to go.

The hosts, who grew in believe the longer their deficit remained so slender, almost grabbed an equaliser in a gripping six minutes of stoppage time. Marek Rodak made an excellent save to deny the dangerous Jared Bowen and then substitute Alfie Mawson blocked Tom Eaves’ follow-up. Hull did have the ball in the net with virtually the last kick of the game but George Honeyman’s effort was touched home by Keane Lewis-Potter, who was a couple of yards offside.

Parker’s surpising line-up, which saw Tom Cairney remain on the bench throughout his return to his former club and Kevin McDonald preferred to Harry Arter as Fulham’s holding midfielder, started slowly. They survived a loud home shout for handball against McDonald before Eaves did brilliantly to slide Kamil Grosicki in behind the visiting back-line, but the Polish international dragged his shot disappointingly across goal as he advanced on Rodak.

Fulham, who had offered very little prior to Cavaleiro’s beautifully-taken goal, saw far more of the ball as the half game to an end, but they were immediately under pressure at the start of the second period. Eaves showed commendable endeavour to chase down a through ball that Michael Hector looked favourite for and somehow squeeze in a cross, but Grosicki elected to try and find a team-mate rather than shoot first time and the danger rather petered out.

The classy Jackson Irvine lifted a cross to the back post that narrowly eluded Eaves, whilst Fulham’s threat on the break was somewhat sporadic. Bobby Decordova-Reid saw a snapshot deflected wide, whilst Josh Onomah drove forward from central midfield but skied his shot horribly over when things opened up for him. The game then got a bit feisty as the clock ticked on, with Mitrovic fortunate to only receive a yellow for swinging an arm at Bowen. The Serbian striker so incensed the home fans after delaying proceedings twice in quick succession that they booed him off when he was eventually stretchered from the field.

By this time, Grant McCann had dispensed with his earlier caution and gone to three at the back in an attempt to grab an equaliser. Jordy de Wijs, comfortably Hull’s best performer on the day, swung in a deep cross for Eaves at the far post, but the tall could only head into the side netting. Parker’s decision to send on Joe Bryan and Mawson as the clock ticked down told you everything about his desire to claim only Fulham’s third away clean sheet of the season.

That they managed it represents significant progress on their recent Championship showings – although Hector and Tim Ream will have far sterner examinations than this. Fulham’s first win at Hull since their 3-0 victory at Boothferry Park by Micky Adams’ promotion winning side in December 1996 was certainly short on quality, but contained plenty of grit. It narrowed the gap to the top two after both West Brom and Leeds surprisingly dropped points, but automatic promotion still seems an awful long way away.

HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Long; Pennington, Lichaj, Burke (Lewis-Potter 70), de Wijs; Da Silva Lopes, Kane (Honeyman 61); Bowen, Grosicki, Irvine (Bowler 81); Eaves. Subs (not used): Ingram, Tafazolli, Batty, Fleming.

BOOKED: Bowen.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Odoi, Hector, Ream; McDonald, Onomah, Decordova-Reid; Knockaert (Mawson 90), Cavaleiro (Arter 86), Mitrovic (Bryan 80). Subs (not used): Norman, Johansen, Cairney, Stansfield.

BOOKED: Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, McDonald, Christie.

GOAL: Cavaleiro (29).

REFEREE: Matt Donohue (Manchester).

ATTENDANCE: 11,347.

January Sales

January is probably the strangest time in the season for football fans. The transfer rumour mill churns out names apparently linked to clubs like there is no tomorrow, feeding on the insecurities that fans have about the squads of the teams they support. It can be a chance for clubs to cover holes left by injuries or to find that something special to help you reach your goals. For Fulham, we have had some absolute stinkers in the January transfer window, with Kostas Mitroglou in January 2014 jumping to mind immediately. I genuinely thought that he was going to waltz his way onto the Craven Cottage pitch and save us from our relegation woes. We broke our transfer record at the time for him but instead of our relegation saviour, the Greece international made three appearances for us and scored no goals. Disaster.

On the other hand, the signings of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matt Targett in January 2018 turned us into a side feared in the Championship. If we hadn’t have brought them in when we did, there is absolutely no way that we would have went up that year.

While I believe that we have a squad filled with wonderful players, I think that we need a couple of Mitrovic and Targett-esque signings before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Defensively we are so poor. We’ve conceded 30 goals so far this season. That’s nine more than Leeds at the top of the table. Michael Hector obviously feels like a January signing despite the fact that he has been training with the club since the start of the season. He was solid enough during his debut against Aston Villa on Saturday, but he did make an error for their goal. It would be great if we could ease him in, but really we need him to play out of his skin for the reminder of the season! There is a lot of pressure on him, hopefully he is up to it.

It’s interesting that we have turned Ivan Cavaleiro’s loan deal into a permanent one this week. I’ve really enjoyed watching him in a Fulham shirt so far this season and he has chipped in with a few goals and assists. If the rumours of a £15million fee are true, then it’s a lot of money, but it does open up a loan spot in the squad so I could see us bringing in another loan.

If we go through the whole of January and all we do is get Hector fully registered and make Cav’s move permanent, then I don’t think fans will be satisfied. While going forward this team could be lethal, defensively we just aren’t strong enough for promotion. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that we are likely to leave things to the last minute as usual. Hopefully we just don’t leave it too late.

#COYW

Stansfield shines on the senior stage

It might be a mere footnote in the national football reporting of FA Cup third round day, but there was something ever so touching about the glimpse of young Jay Stansfield greeting his family after his senior debut. The young man, who has had a tough start in life, was almost dragged into the Putney End by his proud relatives following the final whistle – and they had every reason to be delighted with the teenager’s eye-catching cameo that changed the context of what became an enthralling Cup tie.

The Stansfield story is an incredibly personal one. Jay is the eldest son of the lower-league goal grabber, Adam Stansfield, who made a career of being an irritant to centre backs. Shorter than six feet, Stansfield senior posed problems wherever he played, securing promotion to the Football League with Yeovil Town, with whom he also won the FA Trophy, Hereford United and Exeter City. Stansfield went one better with the Grecians, winning promotion to League One, where he scored seven goals before being diagnosed with the colorectal cancer that tragically killed him only four months later.

Stansfield is beloved by Exeter’s fans, who still sing movingly about him at ever game. Their hymns of praise are more than just the recognition of a storied striker because Stansfield was an articulate young man, generous with time and someone who recognised that he was incredibly lucky to earn a living from the beautiful game. I witnessed this first hand as a regular at St. James’ Park when I was at university and also came to rely on Stansfield’s cogent analysis after games as I was compiling match reports and articles as a young sports writer. On one memorable occasion he gave me his thoughts on a particularly physical game as he walked back to his car with no press officer in sight.

Stansfield senior’s memory is more than kept alive these days by a thriving foundation that was founded by his widow Marie, after the idea came to her during his funeral at Exeter Cathedral that drew more than a thousand mourners. It offers opportunities in football for youngsters in Devon, Somerset and Herefordshire, with a particular focus on activities within the game for disabled youngsters, as well as raising awareness of bowel cancer. Such was the impact of the Stansfield foundation that it had raised over £150,000 within four years – and it goes from strength to strength today.

Exeter City deserve far more credit than they have received to date for young Jay’s development. They have raised a respectful and curious young man, with a thirst for the game and a hunger for knowledge, and nurtured his precocious talent into a burgeoning potential that was coveted well beyond Devon. City were rightly miffed when Fulham poached him for relative peanuts this summer – with the then sixteen year old the latest young star to depart for pastures new, following in the footsteps of the likes of Dean Moxey, Matt Grimes and Ethan Ampadu in recent years.

Everyone knew that Fulham had signed a real talent, but Stansfield has blossomed perhaps even beyond their wildest dreams in his five months in south west London. The young man had a steely desire to make it on his own terms and not just benefit from the goodwill that swells through Devon on account of his incredible backstory. He scored on his debut for Fulham’s under 18s and his not stopped since. Stansfield has eighteen goals in eleven under-18 games to date and even scored on his debut for the under 23s against West Ham United in the PL2, bagging a hat-trick against South Shields in the third round of the FA Youth Cup and earning international recognition with England.

His elevation to the senior squad yesterday came as something of surprise, even with Fulham’s recent history of fast-tracking their academy prospects. Stansfield was far from overawed at taking on Premier League opposition and Scott Parker’s decision to introduce him at a point when the Whites were hanging onto a narrow lead offered his side an out ball as well as a genuine threat in the final third they had lacked for much of the afternoon.

Stansfield might be known as a poacher of goals, but he showed in fourteen minutes yesterday that there is much more to his game. His willing runs between James Chester and Bjorn Engels showed an intelligence beyond his tender years as well as a recognition of what was needed to keep Villa honest at a time when they were pressing for an equaliser. He almost made a goal for Anthony Knockaert with a delicious low cross to the back post and might have marked his debut with a goal had Knockaert returned the favour in stoppage time. That emotional moment will come in time, I’m sure – and, given the young striker’s accelerated development, you wouldn’t bet against it arriving sooner rather than later.

You can donate to the Adam Stansfield Foundation here

Parker hopes FA Cup win can build belief

Fulham boss Scott Parker hopes his side can grow in confidence after knocking Premier League Aston Villa out of the FA Cup this afternoon.

The Whites saw their hopes of gaining automatic promotion from the Championship dealt a serious blow when they lost to Reading on New Year’s Day at Craven Cottage. Fulham got back to winning ways with an impressive win over a weakened Villa side thanks to superb strikes from Anthony Knockaert and substitute Harry Arter in the second half.

Knockaert’s individual goal was his first Fulham since September, whilst Arter marked his first appearance for the Whites since October with a goal just 105 seconds after replacing Kevin McDonald. Parker was full of praise for the impact of his brother-in-law:

Both goals were pretty special. But for Harry, in the sense he has been out for three months, he’s worked hard for some long and lonely days, and when you probably doubt what you have, to come on and score the winner probably justifies everything.

So for that moment, and for what it was, probably Harry’s was better. I’m pleased for him, he’s worked hard. He’s got himself a position and had a shot. It was a good moment. He came in at the beginning of the season and is a player we knew would give us something. It’s a shame he had a big injury but we all understand the player we’ve got. It’s moments like this, for both Harry and the team, that we need to build on.

The Fulham head coach was delighted with the application of his side, who coped admirably in the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic, and the way in which they responded to being pegged back by their top flight visitors.

The result was pleasing and the performance was outstanding. We lacked a bit in the final third in the first half and we spoke about that at half-time, and in the second half we executed it very well. Hopefully we can build on that. Winning football games is vital for us. This team was used to losing and losing becomes a habit like winning does.

Big performances and big wins, against a Premier League side like Aston Villa, build belief. It’s a key moment for us in that sense.