Collins Column: Finish the Job

10th February 2018
Photo: Rex Features

Fulham’s seemingly relentless march carried on last weekend, with a win over Nottingham Forest at the Cottage making it 5 Championship wins in a row and 6 on the spin at home. Jack J Collins breaks it down ahead of the trip to Lancashire this weekend.

Not perfect, but good enough—the verdict from last weekend’s win over a resolute Forest side who appear rejuvenated under Aitor Karanka. Credit must be given to the former Middlesbrough manager in that his team appeared far trickier to break down than they had been under Warburton.

The defensive unit of Fox, Worrall, Mancienne and Lichaj is by no means the most solid in the league but the added protection of Jack Colback and Adlène Guedioura as a screen in front of the back four added some much needed solidity in the middle, and the workrate of Matty Cash and Joe Dowell down the flanks helped nullify the threats of Ryan Sessegnon and Lucas Piazon, especially in the first half.

Quality won out in the end, although it was the dirty work from Aleksandar Mitrovic that helped to facilitate it. Rui Fonte didnt have a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but Forest’s doubling back on the two wingers left him somewhat isolated at times, and the lack of a pure 10 behind him meant that the scraps weren’t picked up on by Fulham.

The introduction of Mitrovic changed the game (Photo: Rex Features)

Mitrovic’s introduction heralded a different type of game. Scrappy, physical and hulking, the Serbian was an immediate handful for the two centre-backs from the second he stepped on the pitch. Piazon’s goal comes courtesy of a sweeping ball from Ollie Norwood, but it would be foolish to ignore the passage of play that leads to the Northern Irishman getting the ball in the first place.

Mitrovic’s pure physicality in the middle leads to the ball falling loose, and Worrall’s desire to not let go of the on-loan hitman is what ultimately renders him useless in the following passage of play, meaning that Danny Fox has to tuck in and let Piazon go on the outside, where he ultimately thunders home.

It will be interesting to see today how Mitrovic fares against a team who are comfortable with the physical side of the game, and if Jokanovic chooses to start him. Much has been made of Bolton’s brutish nature, and the gaffer has a decision to make as to whether he chooses to fight fire with fire or to try and bypass it with the guile of Piazon and Fonte.

TC’s last-minute header saved us a point in the reverse fixture (Photo: Rex Features)

The return of Tom Cairney is another talking point, with the midfielder coming back into the training fold yesterday. It remains to be seen whether Fulham’s captain is fit to start, but I wouldn’t bet against him making at least a cameo appearance today.

Personally, I would rather he was fit and rested to play against Villa, but Slavisa does as Slavisa will—and in the current run of form, it would be unfair to criticise the manager for pretty much any of the tactical decisions he has made.

In other news, Ryan Sessegnon continued his unassailable rise to superstardom with two Player of the Month awards in one week, as well as an appearance in a Nike advert and a prominent spot in the new England kit launch. His interviews still give off that candid sense of having his feet on the floor, and being lucky enough to watch him being interviewed live on Wednesday evening, his demeanour was refreshingly open and warm in a tough media environment.

The Prince of Craven Cottage (Photo: Rex Features)

We are blessed to be privy to the earliest days of what will be a career at the very top of the game—we should enjoy them whilst they last. The starlet’s love for this club is not a falsehood in any sense of the word, but he is simply too good to be playing at this level for much longer.

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In the whole clamour of The Sun using a picture of Neeskens Kebano in a double page spread about Ryan, I did feel sorry for Tom Barclay. As one of the only Football League journalists in the mainstream media, Barclay does a good job covering a lot of ground on a weekly basis, and he would have had no say in the picture that was chosen to accompany his piece. The picture editors supporting him, however, have questions to answer.

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For now though, the immediate task is to finish the four-game runway I talked about three games ago with another win and line ourselves up for the big stretch ahead, which will define this season. The Macron has been a tough place to go in recent weeks, but Fulham are a different prospect right now, and hopefully quality will out.

COYW.

 

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