Whilst optimism remains high in the camp at Craven Cottage, there’s a pervading feeling that something hasn’t been quite right in the last four games that the Whites have played.
In fact, since Newcastle away, and all the ecstasy that came with the dramatic domination of the league leaders on their own patch, it’s been somewhat of a downhill slope for Fulham.
That sounds perhaps over the top, but even during the win against Rotherham on Saturday, Fulham lacked something that we’ve come to expect from the Whites over the course of this season under Slaviša Jokanović.
Whilst it’s not something that has been easy to put a finger on, it appears to be linked to both the dynamism and confidence that flows through the heart of the side. At Newcastle, Fulham were five points adrift of the playoffs, and whilst there was hope in the fact that Newcastle’s home record isn’t sensational, it was by no means an expectant fan base prior to kick-off.
With other results then going our way, by the time Blackburn came around, the Cottage faithful were both jubilant and expectant – ‘the stars had aligned and this was our big chance’. Those present might recall that we started that game against Rovers decisively, and dominated the first half before going ahead.
As we started to tire though, the threat of an equaliser began to grow, and a sense of impending doom appeared to settle on the shoulders of those players who had looked like giants just days before. It would be a disservice to Blackburn and to Tony Mowbray to discredit their performance, which was full of heart and tenacity, but the anxiety appeared to descend upon Fulham from nowhere.
Once the equaliser went in, it looked like Fulham would struggle to create anything more, but the spirited running and impact of Gohi Cyriac changed things for the Hammersmith End in a moment of quality. The fervour of being once more on the up, however, appeared not to translate from the terraces onto the pitch.
The last few minutes were pure agony, as chance after chance went begging at the other end. Then, just as it looked like we might get away with it, an on-loan Sheffield Wednesday striker threw the cruellest sucker punch of all, bundling the ball home to deny Fulham the breach of the top six that we all thought was coming.
It appeared to take the stuffing and desire away from the Whites, as they were then comprehensively outclassed by Wolves. We said at the time that the international break would bring a much-needed recuperation period, but the lacklustre showings at both Rotherham and Derby County have suggested that maybe tired legs aren’t repaired in a single week.
We dominated possession, as usual, in both fixtures. But there was a lack of incisiveness, of dynamism, which has not been the case quite as often in the second half of this campaign. Things can change so fast in football, and a confident win against Ipswich would do much to reignite both the passion of the fans and the self-belief of Jokanović’s squad.
It makes the weekend a crucial test of both the resolve of this current squad, and of the manager’s motivational and tactical ability. But if we can’t quite work out what’s wrong, can they?