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O’Hara hails ‘brilliant’ Fulham


Jamie O’Hara hailed a complete first-half performance as Fulham swept aside QPR in the west London derby at Loftus Road on Saturday.

The midfielder felt Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to switch to a 5-3-2 formation surprised the hosts and Fulham took full advantage of their numerical advantage in midfield, overwhelming QPR with the ball and on the scoreboard as they raced into a three-goal lead by half-time. The experienced midfielder has called on his team-mates to use Jokanovic’s first victory as Fulham head coach as a springboard for the remainder of the season as the Whites try and climb the Championship table.

Speaking to the club’s official website shortly after the final whistle, O’Hara’s euphoria was tangible.

It was a great day. We were brilliant first half. We’ve got that in the team, we’ve got the ability. We need to kick on now with two massive games coming up against Blackburn and Charlton. Our fans were brilliant, they kept us going. It was a fantastic day for everyone involved with the club, the fans especially.

He paid particular credit to Jokanovic for his bravery in dispensing with the 4-4-2 system that had delivered a decent point against Derby a week ago. As well as giving O’Hara license to roam from midfield, the tweaks freed up Tom Cairney into a more advanced role and also helped make Fulham far more defensively secure than in recent weeks.

The tactical change just worked wonders for us. It gave us more bodies in midfield and allowed me and Tom to get forward and maybe take our mind off defensive duties a little bit. We were just getting on the ball with Scotty sitting and we tore them apart.

The gaffer wanted me and Tom to stay high and Scotty to anchor. Me and Tom kept finding holes and finding pockets, Moussa was stretching them and Ross was getting on the ball; everything just came together.

It’s been frustrating for the gaffer who’s had to wait for his first win until now. But he changed the formation on Saturday and fair play to him for being brave to do that.

O’Hara was quick to point out that the decisive derby victory means little if Fulham can’t back it up and move away from the lower reaches of the table. He hopes Fulham’s form doesn’t dip again – like the aftermath of the crushing home victory over QPR earlier in the season – and is targeting a similar display at Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night. 

It’s a fantastic win but it’s just three points, we move on with two massive games coming up. When we last played QPR, we won 4-0 but then went and got beat 3-0 the next game. So we can’t afford to let that happen, we need to be consistent, stay strong, do things right and keep going.

Break will help Fulham, says O’Hara

Fulham midfielder Jamie O’Hara believes the club’s two week break, due to Blackburn being involved in FA Cup action, will help Slavisa Jokanovic.

The Serbian is yet to win a game in charge of the Whites who are now just four points clear of the relegation zone.

Since his appointment as head coach on December 27, with Stuart Gray overseeing the 4-1 triumph over Rotherham two days later, Jokanovic has had a steady stream of games.

The two-week break, though, will give him time to assess his Fulham squad and put the finer points of what he wants to see across.

O’Hara said: “I like the games to come thick and fast but it gives us a chance to have a weekend off and work together as a group of players.

“We can work with the manager and assess what we’re doing wrong and spend time on the training pitch and get things right.

“It’ll help the gaffer. It’s been thick and fast. He’s tried to get across what he wants from us and now he’s got a couple of weeks to really work on what we want. Every game has got to be a cup final.”

O’Hara captained Fulham for the first time in their 1-0 defeat to Hull after Scott Parker was substituted, with regular vice-captain Ross McCormack watching from the sidelines after being ruled out through illness.

And the experienced midfielder was honoured to be handed the armband.

O’Hara added: “It is a fantastic privilege to put the armband on at any football club but especially at such a prestigious club like Fulham. To have that leadership role. It’s something I admired and it gave me goosebumps when I put it on.

“Obviously, Scott Parker is the captain and Ross McCormack is a captain as well. Whatever they need; if they need me to come in and do the job, I’ll do it.”

Fulham are back in action on February 6 when they host promotion chasing Derby.

O’Hara fears relegation battle

Fulham midfielder Jamie O’Hara has admitted Fulham are in danger of being sucked into a relegation scrap after their 1-0 loss at home to leaders Hull.

The Whites had the bulk of possession against the Tigers but were unable to break through their spirited defence.

And Fulham paid the penalty when Lasse Vige Christensen brought down Moses Odubajo in the penalty area and Abel Hernandez scored from the spot to condemn Fulham to defeat.

The result leaves Slavisa Jokanovic’s side four points above the relegation zone and O’Hara, who captained Fulham for the first time after Scott Parker was withdrawn, knows his side are in danger of the drop to League One.

“We’re in danger of getting sucked into it. We’ve been unlucky with a few results. We were the better side against Sheffield Wednesday and we need to get results,” O’Hara said.

“I said to the boys that we’ve got to get results. It doesn’t matter how well you play, how much possession you have, you’ve got to get results.

“We’ve got to cut out mistakes. We’re starting to look over our shoulders or it’s not good enough.

He added: “We’ve got a good squad of players. People can come in and do a job. We’ve got a strong enough squad to stay in the league and I believe we’re in a false position but the table speaks for itself.”

O’Hara has called on his team-mates to stick together as they bid to avoid being dragged further into the mire.

He added: “It’s about sticking together. I’ve been in some tough scraps myself and I’ve been in good squads that have gone down.

“I’ve said to the lads that we’ve got to be men. Men stay in the league and this Championship is about having men.

“We’ve got a young squad with a lot of quality. We need the experienced lads to pull everyone in the right direction and make sure we’re not looking down.”

O’Hara astonished after Fulham collapse

Fulham midfielder Jamie O’Hara can’t quite believe Fulham let victory slip from their grasp at Charlton Athletic.

The Cottagers were leading 2-0 courtesy of Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ross McCormack and looked good value for victory over the Addicks until the final 10 minutes.

But Charlton substitute Johnnie Jackson came off the bench and scored with his first touch and Jordan Cousins grabbed a point for the hosts deep into stoppage time.

O’Hara, who put in an assured display in midfield, was left ruing missed chances at the Valley as three points became one in the blink of an eye.

“You’ve got to put games to bed,” the Whites midfielder said. “We had some good chances to put them away in the second half and then Johnnie came on and scored straight away. We didn’t pick him up. We’ve worked all week on set pieces but it’s hard to get the information across for someone to mark him when he’s come on. It was a great header though so fair play to him.

“We’re gutted because we should’ve had three points away from home and we felt like we needed that today. It’s disappointing. We felt like we played well, we were controlling the game and moving it around well and looked like we could put them to the sword. But we’ve got to put our chances away, we could’ve had three or four, and Charlton came back at us.”

O’Hara hits the ground running


Back in July, there were plenty of people casting aspersions about the wisdom of signing Jamie O’Hara on a free transfer. The reasons ranged from the fact that he had played for a Blackpool side that almost permanently occupied the relegation spots in last season’s Championship, his double relegation with Wolves, his reputation as a bit of a playboy or simply the assumption that he was washed up. O’Hara’s arrival, initially on trial, was treated by some as a microcosm of what they considered to be penny-pinching from Shahid Khan regardless of the midfielder’s attributes as a player.

Never mind, of course, that O’Hara had an outstanding season for a dysfunctional Blackpool side whom he joined after being frozen out at Wolverhampton without having had a full pre-season. The full context of his move to Craven Cottage was detailed in a revealing Daily Mail interview last weekend, where the player himself admitted he worked hard to persuade Kit Symons that he was worthy of consideration. Talking the talk is one thing – but O’Hara’s determination to prove a point to the doubters who had written him off seems to have fired a fine start to the season, which has seen him take to the deep-lying playmaker role at the base of Fulham’s midfield impressively.

There are similarities with Danny Murphy, who also arrived at Fulham with people questioning whether his legs had gone, and – although it is still far too early to compare the new arrival with a man whose impact at this club cannot be understated – there is no doubt that his experience and example in training can only be a positive around Motspur Park. Far from assured of a place in the starting eleven when he converted that summer trial into a one-year contract, O’Hara’s organisational ability, energy and fine range of passing has promptly turned him into one of Symons’ first names on the team sheet.

More of a passer than a stopper in his Premier League days, O’Hara isn’t a natural fit for the spot that’s proved most troublesome to fill for Symons since he took over from Felix Magath last September. He’s certainly not afraid to put his foot in, as evidence on plenty of occasions at Adams Park last night, and his hard work in screening an under-pressure back four was one of the key factors in two much more assured defensive performances to start the season. Just as crucially, he’s a dependable passing option in an area – twenty five yards from our own goal – where Fulham frequently surrendered possession far too meekly last term.

What is most encouraging about O’Hara’s excellent start is that he hasn’t allowed his additional defensive responsibilities to dilute his effectiveness as a progressive distributor of the ball. So assured has his start to his Fulham career been, it’s difficult to see where club captain Scott Parker fits in once he returns from injury. Time and time again last night, O’Hara was slipping a forward ball to the feet of a white shirt and spreading the play wide to orchestrate another attack. With the likes of Tom Cairney, Ben Pringle and Ross McCormack – all themselves perceptive passers of a ball – in front of him, O’Hara’s ability to step forward from a deeper position allows Fulham to manipulate possession at pace, and allied with the interchangable nature of that midfield quartet, poses serious problems for the opposition.

For someone who has faced questions about his fitness, O’Hara’s engine has purred along nicely so far. Like Sean Davis – who became so crucial during Fulham’s Championship winning season all those years ago – he has a happy knack of popping up around the edge of the box to offer another option that defences can’t easily nullify. A couple of shots at Wycombe last night were wayward but you feel as if he might be able to chip in with a couple of crucial goals during the course of the season.

First impressions can of course, be deceptive, but O’Hara’s early contributions have been telling. He was voted man of the match by the travelling fans on Saturday, which was telling, because much of his work was the unheralded hassling and harrying and positional play that goes unnoticed for the most part. Against a League Two side last night, O’Hara was peerless – often covering team-mates effectively, but he also looked to have time on the ball, even in the most congested parts of the field. One wag sitting near me described him as ‘the Putney Pirlo,’ a tag which might be a trifle overdone, but there’s no doubting his importance to this new-look Fulham side. That speculative summer signing now looks like a masterstroke.