Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanovic heaped praise on birthday boy Emerson Hyndman after his injury-time strike to beat Cardiff City secured a third straight league win for the Whites.
The Texan midfielder’s first senior goal was a fitting reward for a fine performance on the right side of the Fulham midfield that belied his tender twenty years. Hyndman, who has been linked with a move away from Craven Cottage in the summer, has caught Jokanovic’s eye in his three and a half months at the club and the Serbian admits that he probably should have found more game time for the gifted playmaker.
Today is his birthday. It’s a great present for himself and for all of us in the last moment of the game. He’s probably one of the more talented players. I am little bit disappointed with myself that I haven’t found more minutes for him this season.
He probably needs to be a little bit stronger for the Championship. But he’s a young guy and he will be a very good footballer for us.
Jokanovic conceded that he might have been to blame for Fulham’s rather insipid start against promotion-chasing Cardiff after two important league wins had lifted them clear of the relegation zone, but their second half display was much more assured.
We didn’t play a good football game in the first 45 minutes. That could be my mistake. Maybe my message was a bit confused. The second half was a game we want to play.
We’ve had one perfect week where we’ve won three games but in front of us is five games more. Mathematically, we are 10 points ahead. It’s 15 points needed, so we need five points more to be 100 per cent sure.
If, as seems likely, Emerson Hyndman’s Fulham career concludes in a couple of months time with a Bosman move away from Craven Cottage, you get the sense that the regulars will reflect on a prodigious young talent that got away. The young Texan, a gifted midfield playmaker, made an instant impression on his promotion to the first team under Felix Magath but a combination of injuries and a rich competition for places means that Hyndman will likely be plying his trade somewhere else by the start of the new season to further his international career. Even if that is the case, Hyndman will at least have a glorious memory to remember his two years at the Cottage by – having stroked his first senior career goal on his 20th birthday to clinch victory over promotion-chasing Cardiff City this afternoon.
Hyndman’s mature performance, as a late replacement in the starting line-up for Tom Cairney, deserved to be remembered for far more than his winner, as significant as it was. The diminutive midfielder delivered an all-action display from an unfamiliar slot on the right side of a midfield four, full of energy, determination and plenty of eye-catching passes. He might have had a sensational goal midway through the first half, when he latched onto a error from Joe Ralls, and darted his way past three Cardiff defenders before unleashing a curling effort from 25 yards out then was superbly parried away by David Marshall.
Instead, Hyndman’s moment arrived three minutes into stoppage time just as an absorbing contest appeared destined to end in a draw. Cardiff half cleared a Ross McCormack corner and, after Lasse Vigen Christensen did superbly to cut the ball back towards the near post from the byline, Hyndman ghosted in and kept his composure, taking a touch, before guiding the ball into the far corner. It sealed Fulham’s third straight Championship victory – the first time they had mustered such a sequence since 2012 – to take them ten points clear of the relegation zone to the delight of a raucous home crowd.
For much of the afternoon, it seemed as if this would be what came after the Lord Mayor’s show following two wins in four days that had given Fulham some breathing space. The visit of Cardiff, still eyeing a play-off place, represented a stern test of the new defensive durability that Slavisa Jokanovic has drilled into his charges – and they were found lacking in an open first half. Russell Slade’s side began the more adventurously and Marcus Bettinelli had to field a header from Aron Gunnarsson before defender Bruno Ecuele Manga glanced a header wide from Peter Whittingham’s corner.
The home side gradually garnered a foothold in the contest and, after Marshall denied Hyndman from distance, the Scottish international goalkeeper scrambled across his goal-line to claw away a curling McCormack free-kick. Just as the home side threatened in a sustained spell of pressure, they went behind at the worst possible time, just before the break. Richard Stearman, who looked far more comfortable after moving to centre back from full-back at half time, allowed Gunnarsson far too much time and space down the Cardiff left and the Icelandic midfielder’s flighted cross found Lex Immers all alone inside the six yard box to head home his fifth goal of the season. The Bluebirds should have increased their lead just a minute later when centre back Sean Morrison somehow saw his powerful header from a Whittingham corner come back off the near post and bounce away to safety.
Slade’s side were made to pay for their prolifigacy almost immediately after the restart. The previously anonymous Moussa Dembele measured the perfect pass for skipper Scott Parker, so outstanding in Fulham’s last two victories, to stride into the Cardiff area and guide an unerring finish inside the far post from an acute angle. The relief inside the Cottage was tangible – and Fulham drew great confidence from their equaliser. They might have gone in front shortly afterwards when substitute Ryan Fredericks’ pace took him clear of the Cardiff defence, but he opted to square the ball for Dembele – whose shot was blocked – when a first time shot might have been a better bet
Fulham’s more expansive football reduced the amount of sustained threat that the Bluebirds posed in the second period, but left back Scott Malone blazed over from a promising position and both Gunnarsson and Morrison spurned decent chances. Jokanovic’s side looked the more likely scorers the longer the game went on. In a dramatic finale, Dembele was denied by a superb reaction save from Marshall who made himself big to push away the French striker’s close range shot and McCormack’s deflected drive from 20 yards shaved the crossbar – before Hyndman’s late intervention.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Bettinelli; Stearman, Garbutt, Madl (Fredericks 45), Amorebieta; Ince, Parker (Baird 77), Hyndman, Tunnicliffe (Christensen 67); McCormack, Dembele. Subs (not used): Lonergan, Burn, Woodrow, Smith.
GOALS: Parker (46), Hyndman (90+3).
CARDIFF CITY (4-4-2): Marshall; Peltier, Malone, Ecuele Manga, Morrison; Ralls, Gunnarsson (Saadi 82), Noone, Whittingham; Immers, Lawrence (Zohore 65). Subs (not used): Moore, Fabio, Dikgacoi, Connolly, O’Keefe.
GOAL: Immers (40).
REFEREE: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
Fulham hope Emerson Hyndman is being protected from the club’s relegation battle for his own good.
The 19-year-old Texan won a first senior cap in September, but the Whites gaffer believes the ugly scrum at the foot of the Championship table would do neither club nor the slight 5ft 7ins player much good right now.
“It’s a bad moment for him and a bad moment for us,” said Slavisa Jokanovic.
“He’s 19-year-old; we assess him constantly, and I’m very sure he’s going to have a future.
“He has a great potential, but where we are right now.
“He needs more help and we’re in the position where the team can’t help him enough. We need to find a more comfortable situation for the team and for him.”
The Whites academy graduate made his debut last season, but a broken collar bone restricted first team appearances to just 11.
He’s on the same number now, but his last outing was as sub for the final six minutes in the 3-1 win at QPR on February 13, even though he was an unused benchman against Bristol City on Saturday.
Hyndman has also yet to sign a new contract with the current one running out at the end of the season.
Even so, Jokanovic harbours hopes of persuading the midfielder to stay
“He may have played only 11 games for Fulham but I expect he’s going to play 500 more over the next 17 years.
“He’s going to be an important player for us,” he added.
Emerson Hyndman was delighted to end Fulham’s run of nine games without a win against Rotherham United on Tuesday night – and is equally pleased to have got a first-team opportunity under caretaker head coach Stuart Gray.
The American international, who had previously told US-based journalists that he would be looking for a move away from Fulham once his contract expires in the summer, has enjoyed first-team football since the departure of Kit Symons and delivered a composed performance in a playmaking role from the centre of the park as the Whites moved a little further away from the relegation zone with a comfortable win in midweek.
We want to kick-start our season and we certainly did that. We are looking forward to working with the new coach and pushing on from the Rotherham match. I just look to perform well on the pitch and I think I had done okay to this point, but on Tuesday I think I stepped it up a little bit.
It feels great as I’ve worked very hard this year. To get this opportunity in the middle of the season is a fantastic feeling and I am just trying to get as many games as I can. I have been working hard all year in training and in the 21s. I try and get better every single day and when Stuart [Gray] came in he showed faith in me from the very beginning and it was very nice to feel that.
Hyndman credits club captain Scott Parker as a key figure in his own development – and the pair formed an impressive partnership of the midfield that gradually took control of the Rotherham game.
Obviously working with and then playing with Scotty is a huge help for me with all the experience that he has playing this game. He guides me around the pitch sometimes which is great. I have a lot to learn still but I was very happy with my performance. But most importantly the team played well which is the main thing.
The Texas-born midfielder is excited to work under new coach Slavisa Jokanovic, who paid a brief visit to the dressing room prior to Tuesday’s fixture, having been named as Symons’ successor on Sunday.
He came in and said he would only be 45 seconds long. He said good luck to all of us and that he wanted to see commitment and aggressiveness in the game. I think we did that from the first minute and we pegged them back with Cauley’s goal. We conceded the set-piece but despite this we were in complete control.
Hyndman is now targeting a perfect start to 2016 with a win over Sheffield Wednesday at the Cottage on Saturday – but nobody is taking the Owls’ challenge lightly.
We respect Sheffield Wednesday but it is all about us really. We have the quality to beat any team in the Championship. I think we can harness the feelings from the win the other night and kick on.
Emerson Hyndman is hoping to use his experience of playing a starring role at this summer’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup as a springboard for a successful season with Fulham.
The young midfielder, who captained the United States as they reached the last eight of the competition, saw an impressive first season with the first-team cut short by a collarbone injury on international duty and is raring to go ahead of this evening’s first pre-season friendly in Portugal against Aston Villa. The 19 year-old wants to kick on under Kit Symons this season and feels his fine performances in New Zealand with the American under-20 side will hold him in good stead.
I wasn’t told that long before the start of the tournament that I was going to be captain. It was a new challenge for me, but my coach Tab Ramos told me he had faith in me, that I could do it. He said just be yourself and try to command these guys, and make sure they are doing what you want them to do. So it gave me a lot of responsibility. I really feel like I lived up to it.
A lot of the guys I play next to at Fulham are a little older than me. We all have our own experiences, like Scott Parker has been England captain before which is a big thing. To be at the front of the line, walking out, and to see all of your teammates behind you, it was a big deal. Especially when the national anthem came on, it’s a real sense of pride. To do that in a World Cup was really special for me.
Hyndman has only had the briefest of breaks before joining the high-intensity training that has seen Symons put the first-team squad, complete with recent new arrivals through their paces, although his recent experience of the competitive edge of a tournament will give him a boost in terms of match sharpness.
We were playing 11 versus 11 in training and that’s my first 11-a-side action since the World Cup, so it was good to finally get the legs going on a big pitch and in one of those games. It was only 20 minutes for all of us, but it was really beneficial for me and I hope to carry that on in the further games that we play.
The last game I played was 120 minutes and that was only three weeks ago, so it doesn’t feel that long since I last played which is good. Obviously match fitness is a big thing and I hope to build that up as the pre-season goes on. I was told at the start of the week I was going to build up gradually. They had a week of training before I arrived back, so it was a smart thing to build me in gradually and I feel up to pace now.
Hyndman says that, although the early work has been physically demanding, the players have been working hard as a unit to ensure that everybody pulls through.
It’s good to get everyone together in a really nice place. Training in the heat has been difficult so far, in terms of getting our bodies ready for the season. It’s been great, we’ve all been getting along with each other and it’s really all coming together.
The cultured midfielder, who has some serious competition for a first-team place after the arrivals of Tom Cairney and Jamie O’Hara in recent weeks, is hoping to build on his bright showings in the senior side last season after stepping up from starring at youth-team level.
I came straight from the 18s last year. I was a year younger and I wasn’t as experienced as I am now, but going through a season and getting a good amount of game time, I feel a lot more comfortable in the set-up now. I think that goes for everyone who came up from the 18s with me, including Pat [Roberts], George [Williams] and all of those guys.
I’m going to try to be myself and do my best, that’s all I can say. I’m always looking to attack as well as put in my shift defensively. Hopefully I can score a few goals and make some assists and do what I can on that pitch.
Hyndman feels that tonight’s first game against Aston Villa in Albufeira represents a serious test of where the side after a couple of weeks of pre-season preparation.
Coming up against a team like Aston Villa, they are a Premier League side. It should be a good game, a fast game I imagine. They have a good squad, and so do we. It’ll be good to have the quality of opposition that we have. Leading into a season, you really want to test yourself and give yourself a chance to sort out any problems or do good things against a good team so you know you can carry it on into the league season,