That wasn’t a result 4 every1, but if you were a Fulham fan that witnessed the brutal Berkshire bloodbath, I guarantee it was an occasion that stimulated the mind, body and soul. After the unjust Play-Off semi-final heartache of 2017, that was heartily refreshing to say the least.
Mission accomplished. We served up a chilling slice of redemption and the Royals choked. Within half an hour, the hosts were down to 10 men following John Swift’s idiotic dismissal and trailing by 3 goals. A half-empty Madejski, stunned and silenced. A much needed victory, signed, sealed and delivered.
To all of you Scott Parker naysayers, hold your tongue. We have a hungry leader in the dugout that will not rest until Fulham’s philosophy has achieved outright perfection and he’s primed for a crusade. Charlton Athletic have a booze cruise booked. Not a splash compared to HMS Piss the League, mind.
Aleksandar’s Attacking Assault
Particularly in the first-half, Reading’s penalty area resembled an all you can eat buffet in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s eyes, with the clinical Serb lapping up two expertly crafted opportunities from close range. The hungry hitman’s textbook brace elevated his tally to 7 goals in 10 domestic outings, a commendable return indeed, and whilst Mitro’s primary objective, of course, is to beat the keeper at all costs, the dogged 25-year-old offered the Whites so much more than just deadly firepower.
In the final third, when our creative components were scheming, Mitro’s intelligent movement dragged Liam Moore and Michael Morrison out of kilter, forging gullies and margins between the centre-half pairing and the fullbacks for his teammates to exploit with piercing, incisive through balls. Committed to the club’s possession-based philosophy, the bustling striker also ventured deep to relieve pressure, acting as an additional outlet in the midfield for his teammates to appropriate, a function which is familiar and and profitable.
Within his natural sector of the pitch, Mitro’ is an unbearable force that opposing defenders simply can’t quell, but even whilst chipping in defensively for Fulham, he’s still indomitable. Reading winched lofted free-kicks into the Whites’ 18-yard box, hoping that the visitors’ could be breached aerially, although Mitro’ towered highest on a number of separate occasions whenever the ball sailed his way, banishing danger with meaty headers. An enforcer in every sense of the word, Mitro’s iron-fisted impact mercilessly dethroned the Royals.
Reid Rattles Reading
I, for one, am a huge admirer of Bobby Reid’s seamless adaptability. Roaming freely across the breadth of Reading’s trembling back four, the versatile 26-year-old is quite clearly comfortable wherever he’s placed, and as the season rumbles onward, his resourceful skill set will undoubtedly bail Fulham out of sticky perturbing patches. He’s our offensive answer to Denis Odoi, and that’s one of the greatest compliments any accomplished professional could ever wish for.
On the flanks, as part of a midfield trio, operating behind Mitro’, Reid conducts himself exceptionally so, and with a host of credible playmakers in support, the Jamaica international terrorised Reading’s ill-prepared rearguard with an unyielding purpose. Combining with Stefan Johansen, Harry Arter and company, he was untraceable, elusive and totally unstoppable in his quest to tamper with José Manuel Gomes’ disorientated set-up.
Reid isn’t the strongest of attackers, but he’ll invest his entire being to the cause. Batted off the ball, muscled out of the picture, the Cardiff City loanee tussled for possession tirelessly, and if he’d been dispossessed, he’d do his damnedest to retrieve the ball, or at least get goal side without delay to impede Reading’s progression. That, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely how you make the cut at this level.
Captain Cairney’s Chip
Never stop being you, Tom. The gift that just keeps on giving, Cairney made a mockery of Reading, swatting them aside with delicate flicks, surging runs and expertly-dispatched net stretchers. We’ll explore his industrious application a little later – let’s talk about his harmful prowess in front of the target once more, shall we? In our previous edition, I challenged TC to work on his neglected right foot, but with a left peg like that, I really wouldn’t worry too much. When it swings, top bins cower.
Opening the scoring in the 13th minute, TC chalked his 5th goal of the campaign with another customary wallop, a tremendous thump that thundered past a powerless Rafael Cabral Barbosa. Fulham’s 4th, in the 67th minute, also resulted from the skipper’s pioneering left, and what a sumptuous masterstroke it was, too. 30 yards from a vacant goalmouth, Cairney’s go-go-gadget pitching wedge chipped Barbosa and the ball duly skipped home in front of a jubilant away following.
Now, back to his industriousness. Nobody, I repeat, nobody is able to manipulate and mistreat opponents like TC, it’s unadulterated sorcery. Interlinking with Mitro’, Anthony Knockaert, every member of the present XI, in fact, the exalted craftsman set the tempo and was central to Fulham’s mesmerising sequences as per. Midfield metronome. Dead on their feet, Andy Rinomhota and Oviemuno Ejaria stood rooted as Cairney briskly carved through Reading’s depleted spine without being shackled or, thankfully, bludgeoned to a pulp. He’s that flash git with personalised boots that you went out of your way to crunch, but couldn’t get anywhere near.
Fine Fullback Fettle
Last season was a complete travesty in more ways than just relegation, with our fullbacks being quite possibly the worst to have ever graced Craven Cottage and beyond in a Fulham jersey. Limp, fragile, unsure, we were persistently fleeced along the flanks but this season, I’m optimistic and contented with our defensive cover and resolve, as we have capable options on board that are secure Championship wardens.
Joe Bryan featured heavily last term and was picked off by the Premier League’s elite, although in England’s second-tier, the buccaneering 26-year-old is revered as one of, if not, the best left-back in the business. Inexhaustibly darting up and down the length of the touchline, supplying a regular stock of ammunition, again, shadowing Reid in advanced quadrants, Bryan excelled expectation and proved his worth. Replaced by Maxime Le Marchand in the 76th minute, Bryan’s confidence should be sky high after his recent string of splendid performances.
Odoi, for that matter, is now Steven Sessegnon’s deputy, but let off the leash against Reading, the convertible Belgian mashed Omar Richards, Ejaria and Lucas Boye down into finely-ground dust with a robust, reliant outing. He’s a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, so perhaps he’ll craft artisan crema from the remnants. Not a clue where that thought’s going, but in essence, Odoi governed the right channel like a virtuoso that’s gained promotion before and, lucky for us, he has. Depth, a rearguard with actual, plausible, experienced depth.
Press, Probe, Punish
Senor Jarman pencilled a terrific article regarding Fulham’s languid passing style, an approach that severely lacks intensity. Sampling the article, I honestly couldn’t concur more with the underlying tenor: take risks. Evidently, Parker and his coaching team also revised Ben’s perceptive words of wisdom, because the Whites employed a high press that strangulated Reading, coercing them into detrimental mistakes at the back.
Knocky caused substantial problems, setting the cat amongst the pigeons with immeasurable provocation. He’s the pantomime villain everyone loves to hate. Camping in the Royals’ defensive quarters, Mitro’, Reid, Cairney and StefJo hemmed the hosts back in their own 18-yard box, and as Reading’s passing game is pretty pony, they thrashed possession in frantic, dithering episodes. Nobody wanted the ball. Cairney’s daring dink represented the direct benefits of squeezing and condensing. It works because Championship defences are not equipped or designed to withstand crippling, relentless pressure.
We monopolised possession, not an anomaly, but there was a genuine purpose behind procedure. We wanted to bombard Reading and spotlight their deficiencies. Our attack is slick, vigorous, irrepressible and if they pressed as a pack, they’d gut Reading without remorse. Structured, methodical, Fulham engulfed the final third and feasted upon the Biscuitmen’s innards. A touch of complacency tainted the Whites performance in the latter stages of the encounter, with the pace slackening in our sequences, but it was a meticulous collective production that throttled Reading senseless. We want more.