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Fluent Fulham are in the driving seat

Derby’s thrilling – and at times scarcely believable – victory over Bournemouth this afternoon capped off the perfect weekend for Marco Silva. Fulham’s position at the top of the Championship, claimed courtesy of battering Barnsley at Craven Cottage yesterday, was consolidated after the Cherries’ untimely slip-up at Pride Park this afternoon and it is fitting reward for the Whites’ wonderful run of wins saw they capitulated alarmingly at Coventry at the start of last month.

Silva’s adherence to his attacking principles stands in stark contrast to the way Scott Parker steered Fulham up from the Championship and then surrendered that hard earned top flight status with barely a whimper at the tail end of last season. Where there once was caution, now there is an embrace of adventure. This was shown in Fulham’s starting line-up yesterday: every member of a frightening front four scored against Barnsley and Silva’s improvement of each goalscorer has been tangible since August.

You can’t always sweep every opponent away with fluent football – although Fulham are certainly giving it a good go at the moment. They can graft for the three points too, as evidenced in the narrow win at Peterborough before the international break, and had to battle through a poor first twenty minutes yesterday where Barnsley began on the front foot and the hosts’ passing was pretty patchy. But when the artisans get half a yard, the marriage of movement, technique and the pace of play is pretty mesmorising.

We have probably all run out of superlatives to wrap around Aleksandar Mitrovic at this point. The Serbian striker’s importance to club and country can’t be understated and the way he guided that header home to give Fulham the lead after barely having a kick for the first twenty minutes showed just how deadly he can be. Note too the contribution of the returning Kenny Tete, whose devilish deliveries from right back can be a crucial weapon in the second half of the season.

Some supporters voiced concern over whether Fabio Carvalho would be fully committed after declining two Fulham offers to extend his contract. The talented teenager allayed all of those fears with a sparkling display that saw demonstrate him a desire to defend from the front – twice tracking back before delivering immaculate sliding tackles after losing the ball – as well as all the silky skills that we have come to appreciate. His goal, that saw him dart inside from the left flank and swap passes with Mitrovic before slotting home, was a work of art that offered breathing space ten minutes before half time. The only black mark on his afternoon was that galling miss at the death after Mitrovic had offered him an open goal – but such was Fulham’s dominance by this point, it was merely academic.

That Carvalho can effortlessly drift out to either flank from a central position gives the opposition’s overworked full backs another nightmare to contend with. Nobody would relish the prospect of trying to shackle Harry Wilson or Neeskens Kebano. Wilson has already proven his quality at this level and he delivered another high-class display yesterday, full of energy and invention as well as one magical moment when he somehow slalomed his way along the byline to carve out a chance for Mitrovic when the dimensions of the pitch and gravity appeared against him. The Welshman has been simply wondrous this season – and got his reward by adding the fourth goal mere minutes after Barnsley had ended Marek Rodak’s run of clean sheets.

Arguably Silva’s strongest influence in his four months in charge can be seen in the consistency of Neeskens Kebano. The Congolese winger could have been forgiven for thinking he might be seeking pastures new in the summer when a managerial change followed his loan spell at Middlesbrough. But Kebano seized an early opportunity to impress with a virtuoso performance at Millwall and earned his spot in the side after more outstanding outings. He is playing at the top of his game, relishing the prospect of terrorising full backs, and has been delivering high quality crosses for Mitrovic to pounce upon. Kebano’s finishing has gone up a notch as well – something he works hard on at Motspur Park – and he rounded off a man of the match performance with a lovely volley that put the Whites well clear yesterday.

The strength of the squad at Silva’s disposal is illustrated by the fact that he was able to summon Jean Michael Seri, whose redemption since the Portuguese head coach’s arrival has been the story of the summer, from the substitutes bench. The Ivorian midfielder didn’t waste any time in demonstrating his class. Seri found Carvalho with a beautifully cushioned first touch, spread the play out to Wilson with a wondrous crossfield pass, and bettered it with a glorious outside of the foot ball over the top of the Barnsley defence for Wilson to make it four. Simply sensational.

Fulham are a joy to watch again under Silva – with the high-tempo football, built around a commitment to crisp, precise passing, already mirroring the tremendous technical play that characterised the Tigana promotion team of two decades ago. This division has plenty of twists and turns ahead – just ask Wednesday’s opponents Derby – but Fulham have the potential to be ferocious front runners.

Bournemouth clash switched to Friday night

Scott Parker’s return to Craven Cottage with Bournemouth has been switched to Friday night for television coverage, Fulham have confirmed this afternoon.

The unbeaten Cherries currently have a five point lead over Marco Silva’s Fulham at the top of the Championship and Sky Sports have selected what could prove a pivotal promotion six-pointer for live television coverage. The game will now kick off at 7.45pm on Friday 3 December.

Fulham eye Grimes move

Fulham may have to battle former boss Scott Parker to secure the signature of Swansea City skipper Matt Grimes, according to a Daily Mail report this morning.

Grimes has entered the final year of his contract at the Liberty Stadium and both Championship sides are keen to supplement their midfield options before the start of the new season. Bournemouth are eyeing potential replacements for Jefferson Lerma, while Fulham are particularly keen to add to their numbers in central midfielder after Mario Lemina’s loan spell from Southampton came to an end this summer. The 25 year-old is widely regarded as one of the Championship’s most consistent midfield operators and has made 124 appearances since signing from Exeter City in 2015.

Fulham U18s win at Bournemouth

Fulham’s under 18s made a winning start to their pre-season programme as they came from behind to beat AFC Bournemouth 2-1.

Steve Wigley’s side shrugged off the setback of going behind with an equaliser coming courtesy of a far post header from a trialist. Olly Sanderson secured victory with a nerveless finish after being sent through on goal by Michael Olakigbe.

FULHAM U18s: McNally; Tanton, Robinson, Araujo, Parkes; Works (Olakigbe), Okkas (Murphy), Lanquedoc (Caton), Gofford (Gordon); Trialist (Sanderson), Wildbore (Lupalo Bi).

Parker: ‘I left Fulham in a good place’

Scott Parker has told his first press conference as Bournemouth manager that he feels he ‘left Fulham in a good place’.

The 40 year-old left Craven Cottage last Monday following Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League and he was announced as Jonathan Woodgate’s successor at Dean Court less than four hours later. The former Fulham midfielder’s protracted departure was reportedly down to his desire to receive compensation from the London club and a falling out with the ownership.

Parker said: “I had a fantastic time at Fulham, I’m very very proud to lead the club, I have nothing but admiration. What I can say is every single day I went into that football club as a player or as a coach, I literally gave every bit of me to the club to try and be successful.

“I’d like to think I did that really. I know I leave the football club in a good place. I understand that people may point the finger and say ‘you got relegated last year’ but like I keep saying, there’s something bigger and there’s something deeper than just winning a league or a relegation really.

When you’re at a football club, the heart and soul of it is bigger than a win or a loss, so I’d like to think I leave the football club in a good place. I couldn’t tell you what reception I would get, but what I do know is that I’m immensely proud of being manager there and what I did there.”