Friday evenings under the lights by the Thames are beautiful anyway, but a night in the radiance of SW6 with 3 hard-earned points in pocket? That’s the stuff of dreams, and I mean risque ones, too. Curbing the smut, Fulham thankfully atoned for their previous insufficient performances by downing an animated Wigan Athletic 2-0, an outing that exposed emotions we’d forget we even had.
It wasn’t flawless, but Scott Parker’s set-up showcased a mettle that’s fundamental in the Championship. Both squads held no prisoners, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harrison Reed avoiding severe punishment for their over-invested devotion to the conflict, but we weathered the visitors’ turbulence to record our fourth victory of the season, alongside our third clean sheet to date.
There’s still distinctive aspects of our game that need ironing out, although I genuinely believe in Parker’s project. There’s never an easy meeting at this level and Paul Cook’s men made it ugly, but the Whites acquired a determination that’s been vacant, a tenacity Wigan couldn’t suppress, no matter how many senseless fouls they committed.
Late Last Laugh
West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield Wednesday both prayed upon complacency in the closing ten minutes of their respective meetings with the Whites to snatch a point. Fulham are culprit to slipping into a slight sedation whilst attempting to conserve a slender lead, but against Wigan, Parker’s men remained vigilant, alert and eager to kill the game off, or risk being pitilessly pegged back by our reckless visitors.
Chances came for the Whites, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Anthony Knockaert testing David Marshall’s reflexes, but in truth, Fulham first-half opportunities to break the deadlock were undercooked and conventionally predictable. Pedestrianised sequences, again, hindered Fulham on the break, and when we should have been peppering the box with inviting crosses, we’d labour on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Wigan to regroup.
Parker obviously jammed rockets up backsides, because the Cottagers exploded into life after the interval. A reaction was required and the hosts wasted no time in landing the opener in the 47th minute. Wigan pressed for a route back into the game, with Lee Evans grazing the crossbar from range, but Fulham held their nerve. Harrison Reed initiated, Knocky surged, Tom Cairney dispatched. Am I completely satisfied? No, because we could have widened the margin, but it’s certainly a positive step in the right direction. All we need to do now is harness that momentum, trust our system and believe in our superior ability.
Besotted By Bryan
Without Joe Bryan roaming the left-channel, Fulham would be a tenth of the force they are now. I’ve reserved a permanent paragraph dedicated to his progressive initiative because I’m pleasantly besotted with the 26-year-old’s enterprising displays of late – it doesn’t matter where he is on the turf, Bryan bleeds optimism and oozes enthusiasm in boundless volumes.
Shunting shoulders to prise possession, haring after both man and ball, swinging peaches, Bryan gave a glowing account of himself yet again. As far as fullbacks go, he’s a certified baller and easily, without a single doubt, the division’s most complete left-back. Sure, not every cross amounted in a shot on target, or even reached its destination for that matter, but Bryan stuck to his primary objective in the final third, and that’s to cram that danger zone whenever and wherever possible, no questions asked.
For such a naturally adept offender, it’s remarkable that Bryan hadn’t netted a league goal for Fulham before his emphatic 47th-minute opener. In front of a packed Hammersmith End, the 26-year-old had two bites of the cherry, rifling the second strike past a stranded Marshall. I’m not asking Bryan to bulge the net on a regular basis, I’m simply pleading him to continue his rapid development as an all-round flanker. For me, as an amateur winger, he’s genuinely a delight to watch, particularly when he’s picking apart back fours, whilst safeguarding his own synchronously.
Stefan’s Secure Service
Options aplenty, Stefan Johansen was deployed centrally to disrupt the Latics’ composure and the bothersome Norwegian did precisely what he’s renowned for. Scurrying after heels and shin bones, StefJo’s presence alone converted the centre circle into a churning whirlpool of industrious destruction, a mischief that was essential against Wigan’s boisterous midfield compliment.
Straight from Dean Whitestone’s whistle at kick-off, the 28-year-old fizzed into the thick of the action. Sam Morsy and Joe Williams persistently antagonised with tough, robust body checks, but StefJo gave as good as he got. That’s what he does, he’s a maverick of his profession, a delicate visionary with a dash of malign thuggery. Picking the ball up from deep, the versatile midfielder wriggled free from congested areas to initiate attacks, feeding Mitro’ with appetising balls to hunt down.
A mediator between attack and defence, StefJo’s 80th-minute replacement Harry Arter could learn a trick or two from his tried and tested colleague, who’s seldom disturbed or fazed by the odd elbow or stamp. We’ll encounter various midfield partnerships this term that thrive on mindless carnage, but with StefJo at our disposal whenever required, we’ve the CEO of shithousing, the undisputed overlord of dark arts and unmitigated havoc.
Celebrating Cairney’s Corker
What we have here is a Tom Cairney like no other. Not only does the 2019-20 edition track runner and knit together compelling sequences, it assaults unassuming postage stamps at the flick of a switch, located on its lethal left peg. Fully capable of composing symphonies with its peerless rhythm, TC’s main functions include ‘easy-going excellence’ and ‘shagger stealth’. Yes, the very best playmaker in the Championship literally has it all in abundance.
Maybe fatherhood’s the inspiration behind his unparalleled influence? Knowing that he now has to set a gleaming example for Aubrey, let alone the entire camp, but something’s definitely been plonked into his morning coffee. The skipper is Fulham’s invaluable talisman, an advocate for the club’s vibrant, artistic blueprints, and when we’re howling for a spark of genius to emerge, the innovative 28-year-old routinely comes up with the goods.
Spreading the ball to Knockaert in the 83rd minute, Fulham galloped out of their defensive third, catching Wigan on the back foot. Skating towards the Latics’ target, the Brighton and Hove Albion loanee located Cairney on the outskirts of the ‘D’. Shifting the ball out from under his luminous boots, the Scotland international locked onto top bins and caressed home with his third of the campaign, propelling the Hammy End into ecstasy. Other than his subtle stab against the Owls, Cairney only scores worldies with that fatal left of his. Better start on that right then, Tom.
Steven’s Stable Showing
A hotshot with a revered reputation at Motspur Park, Steven Sessegnon’s transition from gifted youth prospect to first-team mainstay this season has been seamless and highly necessary. Antonee Robinson examined the flank with lung-busting surges, slaloming into hazardous zones, but our very own England U21 international shadowed the USMT international diligently, constricting the space Wigan had to operate within.
As expected, a few clumsy touches played the 19-year-old into troublesome situations, but due to his tireless ethic, Sess’ fought back and asserted himself against versed professionals at this level, testament to his standing as one of the country’s brightest defensive starlets. Rarely flustered, Robinson, Michael Jacobs and Kal Naismith charged at will, but the budding right-back wasn’t overawed.
He’s not a bit-part player, not even close, he’s keeping a seasoned Republic of Ireland international in Cyrus Christie out of the frame and he hasn’t looked back since being given the nod. Intercepting through balls, accompanying Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro and co. without hesitation, bustling into closely contested conflicts for possession, Sess’ was not deterred by Wigan’s merciless strategy, in fact, he rose to the challenge and instilled a pragmatism to Fulham’s approach from the touchline. Again, top marks for the aspiring fullback, who’s set to shine for many years yet in a Fulham jersey.