Nothing quite compares to that sweet, sweet smell of redemption on a Saturday afternoon. If we’re deadly serious about returning to the Premier League, a victory on home soil was imperative. Blackburn Rovers, like the Whites, had a point to prove after losing to Charlton Athletic, so we were duly in for a treat of an encounter.
Fresh faces arrived on deadline day and Scott Parker’s camp now boasts depth, coherence and title-winning panache. Well, the latter’s an aspiration, of course, but as we’re billed as one of the favourites, we have to live up to the hype and quell the constricting pressures that grow around that expectation.
Certain members of our fan base questioned Parker’s capabilities as a first-team coach. Concerns loomed over his tactical inclinations and squad selection, although he cleared his name under the Riverside’s scaffolding with a rational, measured 90 minutes from his technical quadrant. The shackles are off, and with three points in the bank, we’re entitled to bask in the glory of a triumph. Lap it up.
Clean Sheet Celebration
It really did happen. Fulham finally kept a clean sheet and I’ve just shed a tear. Having to contain Sam Gallagher and Bradley Dack is not an easy task by any means, but Parker’s defensive ranks marshalled the visitors supremely with a highly refreshing all round performance.
At Championship level, Tim Ream is undoubtedly in his element. The trusty American centre-half nurtured possession to stifle Rovers’ burgeoning momentum and was visibly comfortable in exercising his duties. Partnered by a revitalised Alfie Mawson, Fulham’s spine was stringent, an unyielding alliance that enabled the Whites to construct meaningful phases from the back.
Where they were shell shocked and vulnerable at Oakwell on the opening day, Fulham atoned for their recent indiscretions and battened down the hatches to deny Blackburn’s attackers. There’s still substantial work to be in done in terms of fashioning a meticulously sturdy rearguard, especially with the questionable personnel we have at our disposal, but there’s certainly tangible positives to digest and process as the schedule continues.
Arter’s Amazing Artistry
After witnessing exactly what he’s capable of, Harry Arter is going to be a hugely influential catalyst within our engine room. Classy, calm, collected on the ball, the Republic of Ireland international dictated the flow of the game and interrupted Blackburn’s sequences with persevering blocks and interceptions. He was relentless.
Versed in his profession, Arter safeguarded his department without straying from his obligations as a midfield instigator. Stroking the ball across the park in a timely manner, the 29-year-old ensured that play remained in Fulham’s grasp. His variable range of passing is a credit to his advantageous simplicity, a moderated approach that our midfield contingent has been yearning for.
I couldn’t help the comparison, but it was just like watching a prime Scott P patrol across the turf. The way in which he dragged and altered Blackburn’s shape out of kilter was uncanny, and his forcible grip upon proceedings is clearly a natural trait within his industrious locker. Being Parker’s brother-in-law, he’s definitely clipped a few tips from the former England international’s handbook.
Cometh Cairney’s Cracker
Whenever we need a spark of inspiration to ignite banal meetings, we can always rely on Tom Cairney’s unrivalled artistry. We’ve been waiting for TC to introduce himself upon the Championship stage once more, and what a showstopping way to rubber-stamp his exalted credentials in front of an animated Hammy End crowd.
Collecting Arter’s studied pass, Cairney nudged the ball out of his feet and braced his destructive left cannon. Unopposed, the 28-year-old selected a corner and unleashed a projectile of nuclear decimation. From the terraces, a goal appeared inconceivable, but as soon as it departed his lethal wand, Christian Walton’s world was crumbling before him. Blackburn’s airborne ‘keeper slung himself across the face of goal like a redundant rag doll and the ripple of the net was greeted by a a roar of pure adulation. That was stupidly special.
As ever, virtually every progressive instance of play came through the skipper’s administration. Cairney’s our resident architect and our system is tailored to his vibrant design. Having a professional mastermind like TC on our books is wholly essential. The Scotland international stitches patterns and distributes possession expeditiously, but now he’s also able to catapult destructive long-range missiles. Whether he’s supplying opportunities or detonating speculative openings to draw first blood, his qualified presence is undeniably key to out welfare.
Mitro’ Making Mayhem
He has arrived. Be warned, Championship defences far and wide. Aleksandar Mitrovic, after last week’s flat performance, dusted himself down and tightened those devastating boot laces of his to bulldoze Blackburn’s shaken centre-backs. With a steely glare and gritted teeth, Mitro’ got back to work in the only way he knows, and that entails superiority in the final third.
Derrick Williams and Manchester City loanee Tosin Adarabioyo simply couldn’t restrain the authoritative hitman, and though they fought to subdue the Serb’, their combined efforts were painfully subsidiary. Killing lofted balls dead in his domain, the 24-year-old shunted Rovers’ submissive defenders and shielded possession methodically whilst awaiting support. For a man of his stature, I’ve never know a striker demonstrate such a precise first touch before, whilst being pestered by multiple opponents.
Opening is account will warrant a flurry of goals, too. Striding into Blackburn’s 6-yard box, Mitro’ greeted ball with boot to double Fulham’s lead in the 80th minute and a unanimous sigh of relief rang around the Cottage. Not for the fact that we had a 2-0 buffer, but more due to the alleviating realisation that Mitro’ had rattled home his first of the campaign. It’s hunting season and the division’s most fatal marksman is open for business. Those that dare to rival him will be nothing more than ornamental trophies come 90 minutes.
Bryan’s Bold Brilliance
I wasn’t particularly nice about Joe Bryan last week. He’s a firm favourite of mine, but against Barnsley, he was a little lacklustre whilst retreating. Down by the river, though, the charismatic left-back stuck two fingers up at my criticism, because he was exceptionally effective in his defensive responsibilities and, ultimately, a profitable outlet in wider reaches.
Bryan was assured and a sensible dispenser of possession. Weaving in and out of danger, the 26-year-old was a persistent threat on the break, offering his offensive colleagues a direct avenue to utilise. He’ll always assist with overlapping expeditions and this week, contrary to his previous outing, he held his position and discipline faultlessly.
His drive and desire to aid offensive sieges presented Mitro’ the opportunity to broaden Fulham’s winning margin. Darting within flailing legs, the tenacious fullback slalomed into the danger area to fizz an inviting ball across the target. Threading the ball into a perilous quadrant, Mitro’ executed systematically. Bryan was a slight hindrance against the Tykes but restitution of integrity, however, resulted from his stimulating exploits along his respective channel.