Parker questions Arter dismissal

Scott Parker questioned referee Tim Robinson’s decision to send off Harry Arter after the Whites clung on for a point on a tempestuous night in Cardiff.

The Fulham midfielder, who spent last season on loan with the Bluebirds, was shown a second yellow card for simulation after clashing with Cardiff captain Sean Morrison. Parker felt that there was contact on his player and suggested that the referee might have been too hasty in pulling out his cards.

The question you have to ask yourself is: did he get touched? If he’s got touched, then it’s a foul. Now maybe he has gone down a little bit late, but if he doesn’t go down then they get a corner. I understand what we’re saying here, but if he’s been touched, then it’s a foul. The big question is, has he touched him? And for me, [Morrison’s] clearly gone across him and affected him. That’s just my point, that’s how I see it.

You need to understand, this game’s being played at a ridiculous pace, and when we look at things nice and slow in replays, frame by frame, of course things always look worse. At the end of the day, when the player’s on the field running at pace… Look, I see it for what it is, I understand that, but my point is that if he’s been touched then it’s a foul.

The Fulham manager felt that the dismissal was the pivotal moment in a match that his side had largely dominated until that point – but he was pleased with Fulham’s application as they hung on for a precious point.

It definitely cost us, for sure. I thought first half we were poor and I was really disappointed with us at half-time. Second half we got more control, played the ball a little more, waited for our moment, moved them around a little bit more, and if let like we got a foothold in the game, and I just felt it was a matter of time until we got on top of that.

And then going down to 10 men against a team like Cardiff, a tough opposition, they put a lot of pressure on us, and ultimately I look at it as a point well gained.

Ten-man Fulham fight for a point

Fulham have long been applauded for their artistry with the ball, but Scott Parker’s side had to show guts and organisation tonight as they left Cardiff with a precious point having been reduced to ten men midway through the second half when Harry Arter was shown a second yellow card for simulation.

The Irish international was dismissed after tumbling to the floor following a challenge from Cardiff captain Sean Morrison. The assistant referee, closest to the incident by the corner flag, signalled for a corner to the home side, whilst the referee Tim Robinson initially appeared to give a free kick to Fulham, before changing his mind and fumbling in his pocket for his cards. Arter’s dismissal meant the Londoners had to show considerable fortitude to cling on for a draw, with Morrison missing the clearest opportunity – sending a late header wide after being left unattended at the back post.

The frenzied finale stood in stark contrast to the first period, where Fulham had dominated possession and spurned several chances to open the scoring. A perfectly weighted through ball from Tom Cairney sent Joe Bryan storming into the Cardiff box, but the Fulham full back was denied by a sprawling save from Alex Smithies at his near post. Three minutes later, Ivan Cavaleiro kept his feet in the area despite being hauled back by Morrison and crossed for Anthony Knockaert, who saw his first shot blocked before firing the rebound wide with his right foot.

There was a variation to Fulham’s subtle build up when Mitrovic nearly flicked a more direct ball from Alfie Mawson over Smithies but Cardiff goalkeeper was alert to the danger. Another flowing move saw Mitrovic produce a superb spin at the back post to work a shooting opportunity, but the Serbian striker then produced something of a tame effort when he pulled the trigger.

Cardiff struggled for a sight of goal for much of the half although a mistake from Mawson almost let the home side in, only for the former Swansea centre half to atone in the nick of time with a fine saving challenge as Robert Glatzel lined up a shot. After all of Fulham’s possession they fell behind on the stroke of half-time when Aiden Flint nicked the ball away from Cavaleiro as he tried to turn on the halfway line and freed Josh Murphy with a threaded ball down the left. Murphy sauntered into the box and, after Mawson failed to narrow the angle, drove a shot across Marcus Bettinelli and into the far corner. The Fulham goalkeeper got a hand to the effort – and probably should have kept it out.

Parker’s side might have been two down just moments later. This time, Bettinelli got his angles right at his near post and pushed away Glatzel’s close-range effort as he appeared certain to open his Cardiff account. The visitors showed great character to level matters almost instantaneously, with a flowing move culminating in a moment of Cairney magic to free Cavaleiro, whose first-time cross was clinically converted by Mitrovic for his fifth goal in as many games.

Fulham picked up where they had left off in the second half, although Neil Warnock’s side did at least manage to limit the number of clear-cut opportunities. Steven Sessegnon created one superbly for Mitrovic, who found half a yard of space but saw his shot deflected wide. The former Newcastle forward then turned creator for Arter, who screwed a drive wide from a promising position, before the former Cardiff loanee was shown two yellow cards in quick succession to put Fulham’s position under considerable question.

Referee Robertson, who had proven reluctant to deal with Cardiff’s physical approach all evening, somehow missed Lee Peltier wrestling Mitrovic to floor at the far post as Fulham mounted a rare attack – and the Whites bravely resisted a late Cardiff onslaught. Glatzel sent a free header a couple of yards wide, before Morrison missed the target at the back stick as he augmented the hosts’ attack in search of a winner.

Parker remonstrated with the officials after the final whistle, but the Fulham boss will have been pleased with side’s fight to claim a point that looked unlikely after Arter’s ill-judged indiscretion.

CARDIFF CITY (4-2-3-1): Smithies; Peltier, Bennett, Morrison, Flint; Bacuna, Ralls; Whyte (Hoillett 64), Murphy (Mendez-Laing 81), Tomlin (Paterson 64); Glatzel. Subs (not used): Day, Vaulkes, Nelson.

BOOKED: Bacuna.

GOAL: Murphy (42).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Reed, Arter, Cairney (Le Marchand 89); Knockaert (Johansen 71), Cavaleiro (Kamara 81), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Christie, McDonald, Onomah.

BOOKED: Arter, Bettinelli, Mawson, Cairney.

SENT OFF: Arter (68).

GOAL: Mitrovic (45).

REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).


Five Game Assessment

It’s always hard to assess how a manger is doing when he takes over a sinking ship. That’s what we had last season when Scott Parker took the reins from Claudio Ranieri with the club needing more than a miracle to stay up. Parker brought back a sense of togetherness, and allowed the team to at least bring some joy to the banks of the Thames. I think the majority of fans were willing to give Parker a summer transfer window and the start of the season before jumping to any conclusions about him. But now, five league games into the season, we are beginning to see what Parker’s Fulham really looks like.

In terms of matches, we have had a relatively simple start to the league – or at least it SHOULD have been relatively simple. OK, there are no easy games in the Championship, but we haven’t yet come up against any of the leagues’ heavy weights such as West Brom or Leeds. Performance wise, things have certainly been mixed. I was there at Barnsley when we had an absolute disaster of an opening game and I can tell you that I was worried about Parker’s tactical awareness. We have a very strong side capable of hurting teams, but we got the game plan completely wrong. Contrast that to our game against Millwall were we played some of the most beautiful football seen this season in an empathetic 4-0 victory under the lights at the Cottage. Before that we also had a comfortable home win over Blackburn before beating Huddersfield at the John Smith Stadium.

What have we learned?

Parker clearly likes to play a fast paced, passing game with full-backs who attack high. We hold a lot of possession, switch the play constantly and put a lot of balls into the box. A lot of our goals have come from wingers or full backs making it to the back line and cutting the ball back for someone to prod home. We also push a lot of players forward meaning that we over load opposition boxes making it really difficult for teams to clear the ball. And with players like Mitrovic, Knockaert, Cavaleiro, Reid and Cairney we should score a lot of goals this season.

However, our style of play comes with a great deal of risk. As we saw on Saturday past, and on many occasions under Slavisa Jokanovic last year, that one miscued pass can allow an opposition team to cut through and be left with a one-on-one with our keeper. Our defence sits very high when we are in possession, so it’s a lot of pressure on those players to get it right. If we continue this then we might turn some teams over, but we will surely be on the end of some bad defeats as well. We also need to be careful that we don’t become a team with a single way of playing. On Saturday against Nottingham Forest we attempted 45 crosses with only 10 of them going to a Fulham player. Our goal came from when we finally kept the ball on the deck, but I really don’t know why it took us so long to try that.

My other worry is that Parker finished the game with no apparent system. I don’t believe for a second that putting every attacking player we had on the bench onto the pitch was plan B, it looked more to me that there wasn’t another plan so we just went into kamikaze mode. We essentially had no formation for the last 10 minutes after taking our right back off for a left winger. Parker had already taken Johansen, a centre midfielder, off for Bobby Reid, a striker. There was nothing coherent about how we finished the game, and that does worry me about Parker’s ability to come up with a plan B. Maybe I’m being harsh, but in any league around the world you have to be able to adapt your tactics according to each game, not just throw on a load of attacking players which results in losing your shape.

We come up against Cardiff on Friday night, and while they haven’t had a great start, we know only to well what a Neil Warnock team can do. They are tough and will sit back, so Parker will need to think about how he approaches this. I really like a lot of what Parker has brought back to Fulham. The team are passionate and they look like they care massively about the fans, but I’m hoping that we start to see more from Parker tactically speaking.


Obafemi sends Saints through

Michael Obafemi grabbed the only goal of the game as Southampton knocked Fulham out of the League Cup in a low-key encounter at Craven Cottage this evening.

Scott Parker shuffled his starting line-up, making nine changes from the side that were beaten by Nottingham Forest on Saturday, with an eye on Friday’s crucial trip to Cardiff City in the Championship. The Fulham boss handed a debut to former Tottenham midfielder Josh Onomah and a first start to forward Bobby Decordova-Reid, whilst also offering first-team opportunities to Matt O’Riley and Luca de la Torre.

The Whites more than matched their Premier League opponents during a tight first-half, even though Ralf Hassenhuttl stayed true to his word and named a strong side. The hosts made the brighter start with Decordova-Reid rattling the crossbar from an early free-kick and former QPR goalkeeper Alex McCarthy producing a smart reaction save to tip over Cyrus Christie’s header from the rebound.

American midfielder de la Torre, who faded after a lively start, drifted infield effectively in the early stages. He showed great pace to accelerate away from the Southampton defence but skewed a shot wide from a promising position and then similarly lacked the composure to finish a fine move featuring Kamara and Decordova-Reid, who also shot wide from the edge of the box. O’Riley, who sent the game’s first effort high into the Putney End, showed the poise and range of passing that has seen him highlighted as the pick of the academy prospects for the past couple of seasons, but Fulham lacked the punch up front to capitalise on his vision.

Southampton gradually grew into the contest over a slow start and their top flight quality began to show. Marek Rodak had an outstanding game in the Fulham goal, first being called into action as he lunged low at his near post to prevent a Cedric Soares’ cross from reaching two Saints’ attackers. Nathan Redmond looked the most likely to trouble a makeshift Fulham defence, that included stand-in skipper Kevin McDonald at centre back, but the Scottish international denied both him and Moussa Djenpo in quick succession with brave blocks. The bright Redmond threatened again on the stroke of half-time, but drove a speculative shot over the bar.

Southampton stepped things up after the break and put the Fulham goal under some concerted pressure. James Ward-Prowse, impressive at the heart of the Saints midfield, curled a free-kick narrowly over and then, after being presented with a glorious opportunity by a loose Maxime Le Marchand pass, Oriel Romeu was repelled by the onrushing Rodak. Redmond than glanced a header wide from an inviting Ward-Prowse set-play and you sensed an opening was coming.

The Southampton goal duly arrived just before the half mark when Redmond raced down the Fulham left, beating the covering McDonald for pace and squaring perfectly for the teenage Obafemi to slot home his second senior goal from close range. The arrival of Danny Ings and Shane Long as second half substitutes strengthened the visitors’ firepower and only a string of fine saves from Rodak kept Parker’s men in the contest.

First, the Slovenian international made himself big at his near post to prevent Ings from making an almost immediate impact from an acute angle and – after blocking another Ings effort – he plucked a Maya Yoshida header out of the air. McDonald made a couple of saving tackles as Fulham were nearly punished for playing out from the back. It was proving hard for this makeshift Fulham side to get themselves high up the pitch – and the introduction of three debutantes from the sidelines, in the shape of Tyrese Francois, Ben Davis and Martell Taylor-Crossdale, initially broke up the game’s rhythm.

Fulham’s late onslaught never really materialised. The closest the hosts’ came to an equaliser was when Decordova-Reid lashed an effort narrowly wide from the inside left position, although referee Robert Jones missed the clear deflection that had taken it wide of the post. Both Taylor-Crossdale and Francois made their presence felt in the final stages, but the Whites looked for an extra pass rather than the shot as time ticked away and Southampton fully deserved their place in the third round.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Bryan, McDonald, Le Marchand; Onomah, Johansen (Francois 80), O’Riley; de la Torre (Davis 90), Kamara (Taylor-Crossdale 90), Decordova-Reid. Subs (not used): Norman, Opoku, Odoi, S. Sessegnon.

BOOKED: Johansen, Le Marchand.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-2-2-2): McCarthy; Soares, Hojberg, Bednarek (Yoshida 60), Danso; Romeu, Ward-Prowse; Boufal, Djenpo; Redmond (Long 76), Obafemi (Ings 68). Subs (not used): Gunn, Stephens, Valery, Armstrong.

BOOKED: Danso, Ward-Prowse.

REFEREE: Robert Jones (Merseyside).


Parker absolves Sessegnon of blame

Scott Parker took responsibility for Fulham’s defeat by Nottingham Forest yesterday – refusing to blame young full back Steven Sessegnon after his mistake left the Whites 2-0 down.

Sessegnon’s lapse in judgement allowed Sammy Ameobi to set up Lewis Grabban for his second of the afternoon to leave Fulham facing an uphill task to get something of the game. But Parker told the press that the mistake resulted from his own instructions to his defenders to play the ball out of the back and that no blame should be attached to the teenage full back on only his third league start for the club.

Parker felt Fulham were good value for a point against Forest, despite being punished for a sloppy start, when Grabban opened the scoring inside five minutes.

I felt like we controlled the game and were in control. But we started slow. I was disappointed with how we started the game to be honest. The first 10 to 15 minutes were on the back foot a little bit. On another day we control the game as much as we did there today and the chances would come. The chances didn’t come our way today.

I always felt comfortable in the way in which we were playing. In the first and second half we played well but for the second goal the mistake came from us. I take responsibility for that, because it’s the way I want us to play and that can happen sometimes. Steven has been top since the day he’s walked in pre-season. It’s his third game and mistakes happen. But, like I said, it’s not Steven Sessegnon’s fault. It’s my fault, if anything. I take full responsibility for that.

Aleksandar Mitrovic did pull a goal back with eight minutes to play, but despite concerted Fulham pressure, the home side couldn’t find an equaliser.

The longer the game went on nobody was leaving the stadium. I don’t think there were any Fulham fans in there who would think we would come away with nothing. We went to a back three and tried to push more bodies further up the field. But nothing came.

Grabban brace brings Fulham back to reality

A brilliant brace from Lewis Grabban secured a smash-and-grab victory for Nottingham Forest at Fulham this afternoon.

Scott Parker’s side were well below the sublime levels of performance that saw them demolish Millwall in midweek and, despite dominating possession, were left to rue defensive errors that proved costly despite laying siege to the Forest goal in the closing stages. Parker took responsibility for young Steven Sessegnon’s poor pass that presented Grabban with the opportunity to double the visitors’ lead – an opening he finished with real aplomb – and this was a reminder that the Championship is an unforgiving league.

Forest were disciplined defensively and incredibly well-drilled and, if there was more than a little gamemanship as they tried to hold onto their advantage, then Sabri Lamouchi’s men should be applauded for the adventurous way they sort to put Fulham on the back foot from the off. They had already threatened to exploit Sessegnon’s inexperience before a beautiful move between Tiago Silva, Joe Lolley and Jack Robinson sent the full back scampering into space down the left. Grabban bent his run beautifully to drift off the back of Tim Ream and coolly converted the cross at the back post to score his second goal of the season.

Fulham were caught cold by their opponents’ strong start. Grabban, an expert goal-poacher at this level, might have made it two from twenty five yards with an audacious effort that drifted wide – and Lamouchi’s side were adept at preventing Fulham’s one-touch football from seriously threatening their penalty area. The hosts were largely restricted to efforts from outside the penalty area, with Joe Bryan and Harry Arter driving speculative shots wide, and league debutant Brice Samba was only troubled once – when an Aleksandar Mitrovic strike lacked the power or placement to beat him. Silva might have done better than hook an ambitious overhead kick wide had he realised just how much time he had in front of the Fulham goal.

Parker replaced Stefan Johansen with Bobby Decordova-Reid at the break, but the former Cardiff and Bristol City forward seemed uncertain of whether to partner Mitrovic or drift into pockets of space behind him. Fulham made a quicker start to the second half, although Reid’s close-range finish was ruled out for a foul by the Serbian striker on the Forest goalkeeper. Samba made a smart save from Knockaert’s downward header on 53 minutes – and the stage seemed set for a concerted period of Fulham pressure.

But the next opening arrived at the other end. Sessegnon sought to play the ball out from the back – in the manner that Parker has asked his defenders to do – but Sammy Ameobi seized on a mistake from the young defender and quickly fed Grabban with Fulham short-handed at the back. The striker had plenty to do as he darted away from Alfie Mawson, but made light of work of his task smashing an unstoppable finish beyond Marcus Bettinelli and in off the inside of the post.

Fulham had little choice but to throw men forward in search of an unlikely comeback. They were frustrated by Forest’s outstanding defence, with Michael Dawson and Joe Worrall delivering a masterclass in how to nullify Mitrovic for the most part, and an inept referee’s inability to retain control of the contest. Samba, who was booked far too late for continual delaying of the restart, produced a brilliant one-handed save to claw away Sessegnon’s deflected volley – but the home side failed to test him enough given they enjoyed 72% of the possession.

The Whites did grab a lifeline with eight minutes to play. Substitute Aboubakar Kamara bulldozed his way down the left flank and cut the ball back from the byline, allowing Mitrovic to arrow a first-time effort into the far corner. There was still plenty of time for a storming finish with Worrall remarkably heading a goalbound Harry Arter volley behind for a corner and a couple of strong handball shouts waved away, but Forest resisted during eight minutes of second-half stoppage-time to claim an outstanding away victory.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon (Kamara 74), Bryan, Mawson, Ream (Christie 87); Arter, Johansen (Decordova-Reid 45), Cairney; Knockaert, Cavaleiro, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Le Marchand, McDonald, Reed.

BOOKED: Arter, Kamara.

GOAL: Mitrovic (82).

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-1-4-1): Samba; Jenkinson (Cash 82), Robinson, Dawson, Worrall; Watson; Lolley (Adomah 72), Ameobi, Sow, Silva (Semedo 58); Grabban. Subs (not used): Muric, Ribeiro, Figueiredo, Mir.

BOOKED: Ameobi, Semedo, Samba, Adomah.

GOALS: Grabban (4, 61).

REFEREE: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).


Parker praises Fulham’s work ethic

Scott Parker saluted Fulham’s hard work during pre-season after the Whites thrashed Millwall 4-0 at Craven Cottage tonight.

The Fulham boss felt his players were reaping the rewards of a strenuous pre-season programme and believes that his side have swiftly absorbed the lessons of their opening day slip up at Barnsley. The comprehensive victory over Millwall lifted Fulham to third in the table – and the manager was delighted with the manner of his team’s success.

The most pleasing thing is all the work that has gone in over the last 10 weeks you finally see your team execute against a good Millwall side who have started their season well. Full credit goes to the players who have been superb.

Momentum is with us. We are winning football matches, that’s three on the bounce now, and confidence is high and long may that continue. This league is relentless. Tonight is good of course but four games in we have a long way to go. This has been a good night but come tomorrow we work it away.

The victory owed much to the outstanding wing play of new signings Ivan Cavaleiro, who scored twice, and Anthony Knockaert, who opened his Fulham account with a header. Parker praised the Fulham hierarchy for bringing in those two players, who have a history of success in the Championship, on loan over the summer.

It’s so important to bring in those type of players. That’s credit to the owners who identified the mistakes we made last year in terms of recruitment. We have signed players who tick boxes and who you know what you are getting. You limit the risk and they have fitted in really well. All the new boys have fitted in superbly.

Flawless Fulham hit Millwall for four

Many may have scoffed at Scott Parker’s managerial credentials – especially following Fulham’s opening day defeat at Barnsley – but there are signs the feelgood factor has returned to Craven Cottage. The Whites put on a spellbinding display of flowing football, which rivalled any of the eye-catching performances during the Slavisa Jokanovic years, to ruthlessly outclass Millwall and underline their promotion credentials.

There was always a feeling that Parker’s new front three of Ivan Cavaleiro, Anthony Knockaert and Aleksandar Mitrovic might be far too hot to handle for Championship defences and the home side were irresistible going forward this evening. But the stylish way in which they cut Millwall to ribbons and the precise nature of their passing suggests that Parker’s side could be successful in following the Jokanovic blueprint of playing their way out of the Championship. The 934 completed passes during this ninety minutes surpassed anything recorded in this division since Opta began compiling data in 2013/2014 – they simply passed Millwall into submission.

Neil Harris, who praised the majesty of Fulham’s football after the final whistle, probably got his tactics wrong. Millwall played a passive 4-4-1-1 and sat off the home side, which proved to be a fatal mistake. Parker’s charges looked frightening with the time and space to work their magic – the traditional Millwall blood and thunder approach, mirroring the way Barnsley had pressed Fulham out of their comfort zone, might have paid more dividends.

As it was, Fulham played pretty passing patterns from the outset and were soon into their rhythm. Bartosz Bialkowski produced an excellent save to prevent Mitrovic from heading home Knockaert’s floated cross, but the visitors never looked likely to resist wave after wave of Fulham attacks. The opener duly arrived in the fifteenth minute when Tom Cairney, who orchestrated proceedings regally from midfield all night, fed Cavaleiro inside the box. The Portuguese winger darted inside Mahlon Romeo and Connor Mahoney in the blink of an eye and crashed a right-footed effort high into the net.

Fulham’s second was a work of art. Knockaert provided the finish – a rare header as he scampered free to meet Cavaleiro’s cross – to a mesmorising 26 pass move that involved all eleven home players. It was something of a surprise that Millwall, who looked bewildered by the ease with which their opponents played through them, managed to make it through to the break with no further damage to the scoreline. Their plans weren’t helped when Jiri Skalak, making a first league start since February, limped off injured shortly after seeing a deflected shot fielded by Marcus Bettinelli.

Harris shook things up at half-time – with former Fulham forward Matt Smith introduced from the bench – and Millwall briefly threatened a revival. Smith should have scored almost instantly, but snatched at his shot when a Tom Bradshaw effort rebounded at his feet, before Romeo and Bradshaw both had shots blocked in quick succession. The visitors’ lively start to the second period petered out as Fulham began to see more of the ball and there was greater damage to come.

Steven Sessegnon, who enjoyed a remarkably composed home league debut, saw a cross loop onto the top of the bar, but Fulham’s third wasn’t long in coming. There was an element of fortune about it as Harry Arter miscued a speculative shot from the edge of the box and the ball broke to Mitrovic in front of goal. The Serbian reached the loose ball ahead of Bialkowski, who was already committed to a challenge, and scythed him down. Mitrovic blasted home the ensuing spot-kick with the minimum of fuss.

Six minutes later and Fulham had four. Cairney’s impudent chip was perfectly weighted for Cavaleiro to surge away from a tiring Millwall defence and the on-loan Wolves winger took one touch to round the goalkeeper and a second to double his tally for the night as blue shirts toiled in vain to try and quell the danger. The Whites were rarely tested defensively, with Smith denied a late consolation on his return to the Cottage by an offside flag.

Fulham will face fiercer tests this term – perhaps even on Saturday against Nottingham Forest – but the poise and penetration of Parker’s side suggests that they could be a force to be reckoned with in this division once again.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Arter (McDonald 75), Johansen, Cairney (Decordova-Reid 69); Knockaert, Cavaleiro (Kamara 79), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Le Marchand, Christie, Reid.

BOOKED: Mitrovic, Knockaert.

GOALS: Cavaleiro (15, 63), Knockaert (32), Mitrovic (pen 56).

MILLWALL (4-4-1-1): Bialkowski; Romeo, M. Wallace, Pearce, Cooper; Mahoney, Williams (Smith 45), Leonard, Skalak (Ferguson 39); Thompson (Molumby 75); Bradshaw. Subs (not used): Steele, Hutchinson, O’Brien, Bodvarsson.

BOOKED: Cooper.

REFEREE: Darren Bond (Lancashire).


Arise, Sir Steven

I’m sure many of you had a brother or sister growing up- but if you didn’t, let me describe it to you. I was one of four, and EVERYTHING was a competition in my house. Particularly with my younger brother as we were only 18 months apart, everything from tying shoe laces to eating dinner was completed with a highly competitive edge. It was carnage at times! I’d imagine that the rivalry between siblings is only intensified when you are a twin, so I’m sure there were some battles inside the Sessegnon house when Ryan and Steven were growing up. I reckon the twins loved getting one over on the other in a friendly way, but I also reckon that both boys spurred each other on, encouraged each other and essentially made each other better players.

However, while I think that the twin dynamic has benefitted the boys, I’d imagine that sometimes it must have been tough for Steven when he was watching Ryan take steps in his career at a quicker pace. What we have seen in public has been a real mutual respect and love between the boys, but I’m sure it wasn’t always easy, even if Steven has never shown it! He maybe felt in his twin’s shadow at times, but now it’s time for him to step out and make his own mark in the footballing world.

Many of us have been calling for Steven’s inclusion in the team for a year or so but apart from a few cup appearances, we were left frustrated. But finally, on a cold and windy night in the North West, exactly two years on from Ryan’s debut in the same league, we got to see Steven in action- and what a league debut he had. I was massively impressed with what I saw from him, particularly in aiding the attack. He maybe drifted to the left a bit more than we would want from a right back, but I don’t think that’s the position he has played most in so it’s OK to take some time to adapt. Like Ryan, he is a very hard worker, and also had to confidence to pass the ball around with pace. In attack he had the Huddersfield defence worried on several occasions and was very unfortunate not to come away from the match with an assist. Without his endeavour to get the ball into the box, we wouldn’t have clinched our second goal so he had a rea;;y positive impact on the result. He looks much more able in that position than Denis Odoi and Cyrus Christie so he should soon cement his place there.

It may have came two years after Ryan, but we all take our own routes in life and there is absolutely no shame in that. This is Steven’s time, and I’m buzzing to see what he has in store for us.


Cavaleiro’s cracker clinches Fulham win

A moment of magic from Ivan Cavaleiro clinched back to back wins for Scott Parker as Fulham recorded an impressive 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town tonight.

The Portuguese winger settled the contest with a stunning curler from the edge of the box that left the outstanding Kamil Grabara clutching at thin air with ten minutes to play. Cavaleiro’s first goal for the Whites was enough to secure an encouraging away win from a contest that Fulham had dominated, but were pegged back when Karlan Grant’s second half header threatened to punish the Londoners for their profligacy.

Parker had made one change from the side that had recorded their first win of the season last weekend against Blackburn, handing teenage defender Steven Sessegnon his first league start at right back. The visitors were indebted to the youngster’s quick thinking when he bravely blocked a venomous drive from from Lewis O’Brien. Huddersfield were after a quick start, but instead they grew gradually into a contest that began with patient Fulham probing.

Parker’s side spurned several good openings in the first half. The lively Anthony Knockaert posed Huddersfield problems throughout and when Grabara clawed away a dangerous low cross, Stefan Johansen teed up Cavaleiro, who steered a shot disappointingly wide of the far post. A lovely one-two between Johansen and Joe Bryan sent the left back surging into the Huddersfield area but he opted to try and beat Grabara at his near post when the better option might have been a pull back for the unmarked Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Huddersfield had ended the first period the stronger with a number of threatening raids down the right from full back Florent Hadergjonaj but, after a stern half-time talking to from Parker, Fulham emerged full of intent. Both Mitrovic and Knockaert spurned decent chances before the Serbian striker was denied by a smart block from Christopher Schlinder and drove the rebound over the crossbar.

Fulham’s pressure was building, but when the breakthrough came it owed much to a mistake from Juninho Bacuna. The Huddersfield midfielder was trying to prevent a through ball from reaching Cavaleiro by the byline but he ended up hooking the ball inviting across his own goal, allowing Mitrovic to outjump Tommy Elphick and head home from three yards out.

But Fulham contrived to throw away their advantage just six minutes later. Hadergjonaj powered down the right and sent over a dangerous cross which former Charlton forward Grant met with a powerful header from eight yards. The ball ricocheted off the post and over the line via Marcus Bettinelli’s body – and belief suddenly surged through the John Smith’s Stadium.

Parker has built his side to attack and Fulham went straight back to it. A beautifully weighted pass through the heart of the Huddersfield defence sent Knockaert scampering clear but Grabara surged his line to block the French winger’s finish and preserve parity. The Fulham manager certainly wasn’t settling for a point – sending on Bobby Decordova-Reid to add to his side’s attacking arsenal and the red shirts began to swarm around the Huddersfield box.

It needed a moment of real quality to beat the inspired Grabara and Cavaleiro, who had been largely anonymous in a diffident first half, provided it. Taking advantage of the extra yard provided by Bryan’s decoy run on his outside, the on-loan Wolves winger bent a beautiful finish around Grabara and into the top corner to restore Fulham’s lead. They might have stretched their advantage when Decordova-Reid found some space in the penalty area, but the Huddersfield goalkeeper pulled off another smart save.

Town piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but the only moment of real alarm came in stoppage time when Terence Kongolo muscled his way onto a long ball from O’Brien at the back post but his attempted cross lacked the power to reach Grant and was gratefully smothered by Bettinelli. This defeat meant a brittle Huddersfield side have managed just four wins in 51 competitive games, but an early sacking would be exceptionally harsh on the likeable Jan Siewert, who inherited a thankless task in the second half of last season.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-3-3): Grabara; Hadergjonaj, Kongolo, Elphick, Schindler; Bacuna (Chalobah 54), Hogg, O’Brien; Kachunga (Mounie 83), Pritchard (van La Parra 84), Grant. Subs (not used): Schofield, Bockhorn, Diakhaby, Quaner.

BOOKED: Kachunga, Hogg.

GOAL: Grant (57).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Arter, Johansen (Decordova-Reid 76), Cairney; Knockaert (Le Marchand 90), Cavaleiro (Reed 84), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Christie, McDonald, Kamara.

BOOKED: S. Sessegnon, Mawson.

GOALS: Mitrovic (51), Cavaleiro (80).

REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).