Better late than never. To those that ventured to the Old Suffolk Punch after Fulham’s dramatic 2-2 draw against Charlton Athletic, thank you for making it a momentous afternoon that we at Fulhamish will never forget. Here’s to another 200 episodes and, perhaps, another live recording with familiar faces, legendary guests and plenty of beer – or Aperol Spritz, if you’re Collins and Betts.
The Whites versus the Addicks. That doesn’t really scream showstopping London derby, but the lunchtime kick-off down by the Thames comprised all the typical hallmarks a fierce, high-octane capital clasico should. The north-London derby pales in comparison and is basically a day out at Crufts.
Charlton is a club I refuse to hate on. Not because they’re actually fairly irreverent, but because they’re an honest community club with similar values to our own. Supporting clubs like Fulham and Charlton is a way of life, not an inevitability. If you want everlasting success and safety, follow Arsenal, Liverpool or Real Madrid. We sentence ourselves to heartache, anguish and jubilation in no particular order, but that’s why our world is better than Joe’s, the clueless Blues fan next door.
Rampant Reid Reinvigorates
The game was crying out for Bobby Reid to tamper with Charlton’s organisation and collect the ball in tight pockets, as he did against Reading. Heading into the second 45, the Cardiff City loanee replaced Sess’ and his impact upon proceedings was instant. As soon as he emerged, Reid manipulated the Red Robins’ shape and installed a trailblazing dimension to the Whites’ offensive phases. Week after week, the 26-year-old is rapidly becoming an essential component.
Two golden opportunities to net his first for Fulham came his way, but an inspired Dillon Phillips thwarted both instances exquisitely. His first, an improvised header, should have been a penalty as Forster-Caskey had a fistful of shirt and his second, in the 91st minute, was struck almost too well. All in all, Reid dispatched 6 hostile shots to no avail. What does he have to do to tally his first goal of the campaign? Imagine the scenes when he finally does spank then net, it would be pretty tasty to say the least.
Roaming the final third without being deterred or hesitant, Reid contributed to various instances that perilled Charlton’s rearguard. Rotating possession reasonably, anticipating knock downs to prolong Fulham’s stranglehold, the attacker’s adaptable artistry aided the Whites’ search for a breakthrough, yet again. Jinking towards the penalty area, Reid lifted an appetising cross into the danger zone and Tom Cairney nodded goal bound. Seconds later, following Phillip’s smart reaction save, the Whites were level. Predatory vision, invaluable ingenuity.
Sending Sess’ Sympathy
Evidently distressed and alarmed by Charlton’s persistence along the right flank, one half of hideous football was enough for Steven Sessegnon. Parker, as well as all in attendance, had seen enough of the 19-year-old’s somewhat imprudent effect on proceedings, although in hindsight, I’ve nothing but solace and sympathy for Sess’. The fledgling right-back’s promoted enthusiasm and avidity since his first-team induction, but the Mostpur Park graduate cut a crestfallen figure as he trudged of the turf at the interval.
Sess’ granted Jake Forster-Caskey the space to progress freely up the channel as he was cautious and tentative, and visitors’ 41st-minute opener subsequently culminated from the right. Inactive and stagnant, Sess’ was repeatedly conquered by Charlton’s purposeful midfielders. Swiping at routine passes, spurning standard offensive phases, the England U21 international didn’t expedition his flank with the verve and energy we’ve grown fond of and accustomed to.
One thing I always, always forget that Sess’ is still a raw talent, an unpolished diamond of the modern game with a lot to learn and discover in his budding trade. Charlton were robust, responsive and they identified Sess’ as a weaker link due to his inexperience, not incompetence. Called up to Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions for the October international break, Sess’ is an esteemed representative for both club and country, and sudden streaks of adversity will only build character and galvanise his desire to flourish as an undisputed starter in SW6.
Aleksandar Aggravates Addicks
A recurring feature of virtually every encounter this term, Mitro’ was pressed incessantly, this time by Jason Pearce, who was backed up by Naby Sarr and Tom Lockyer. Hurried on every touch, the Serb’s afternoon was an onerous one, as he didn’t have it all his own way. Restained by Lockyer in the 23rd minute, a penalty appeared imminent but the provoked marksman’s protests were overlooked by Keith Stroud. From that incident onward, Mitro’ held a personal vendetta.
In front of goal, Mitro’ struggled to make 7 of his 8 efforts stick. Butting balls over the frame by a matter of inches, clattering the crossbar in the 62nd minute, it was going to be one of those frustrating days for the prolific hitman, or so we thought. Moments after thumping the woodwork, Mitro’ slammed into the roof the net to restore order and parity, leaving Charlton’s defenders sprawled on the deck as he wheeled away in celebration. Mitro’ won’t have it all his own way, but he rises to the notion of being vanquished and thrives on competition. Now the Championship’s top scorer with 8 goals to his revered name, Mitro’s storming towards double figures at a frightening pace and is now justifiably the division’s head honcho.
The 25-year-old clamoured, howling a war cry for revenge and retribution. When Mitro’ sees red, tread very, very carefully. Bulldozing into aerial battles, grappling for possession unremittingly, Sarr and his colleagues resembled mere mortals and were incapable of subduing the striker’s superhuman strength. Fracases erupted between Mitro’ and Pearce, and I know who my money’s on if tempers flared further. In the 77th minute, Mitro’ flattened Pearce with a cynical body check and I’ve never laughed louder or more psychotically before in all my years of watching nerds get wailed on. A yellow was brandished, but Charlton’s No.6 certainly had it coming. If you’re to take anything constructive away from Saturday, Jason, don’t f**k with Mitro’.
Cav’ Conquers Criticism
I wanted Ivan Cavaleiro to depart at half-time because I thought he didn’t show for the ball enough and, when he did, he was ambushed by a vigilant Chris Solly. Maybe complacency initially poisoned his performance, but I wasn’t overly impressed with his underlying application. With little breathing space to weave down the left channel, Cav’ opted to dip inside and was cordoned off continually by Charlton’s observant defence. It’s painfully predictable. A player of his aptitude should be able to get in behind his direct opponent without obstruction, but he rarely opened the taps.
As rightful punishment for my bogus critique of his timid first-half outing, though, I was made to choke on my words when he spanked home an absolute piledriver in the 55th minute. Leaving Sarr spinning in an alternate dimension, the Portuguese winger harnessed his momentum to lace another screamer for Fulham. Phillips got fingertips to the meteoric cluster of synthetic matter, but there’s simply no stopping that. There must be something in the water they drink, but the Whites only net bangers.
Cav’ whipped tempting balls into inviting areas, appropriated the byline as a seasoned flanker should and grew into the game as it progressed. Spoiled by the flair we have at our disposal out wide with the 25-year-old and Anthony Knockaert, sometimes I expect far too much from the both of them, especially Cav’, but defining instances like his blistering equaliser relinquishes any lingering doubt I have over his faculties and intelligence. Sometimes, it’s best to keep your mouth shut, but if it means he blasts more thunderbolts, I’ll continue to scrutinise.
Resilience Restores Reputation
Clawing back twice to salvage a point. Refusing to crumble in the face of hardship and affliction, Fulham raised swords against a spirited Charlton outfit to spare blushes and halt humiliation at the Cottage. Lee Bowyer’s running a tight ship and his men were eager to cause an upset, and they could well have done so, if the Whites weren’t determined and unified. Parker wants to alter the club’s mindset and he’s doing so. Mistakes were made, everyone recognised their errors, but it’s the manner in which we refortified that’s deeply pleasing. Downing tools is non-existent.
We showed heart and practised resolution, a willingness to throw caution to the wind when we were chasing proceedings, at home, even against an opposition that’s exceeding expectation and quite clearly soaring with confidence. Each goal was relished by all, fans and players as one, and that collective solidarity is nothing more than compulsory to any outfit that’s vying for promotion. If you don’t have a backbone, the nous to overcome tribulation, you’ll be mauled alive and spat out for the vultures to pick at.
Those are games you should be winning, but football doesn’t give a dam about cliches. The Addicks had just beaten Leeds United and narrowly lost to Swansea City. The club from SE7 are not to be taken lightly. Thankfully for us, Fulham dug deep to silence the awesome away support. We’re going to be hemmed back and rattled in the Championship, every team in the same bracket as Charlton will want our scalp on their mantle, but we have to give as good as we get in the hard-working, no nonsense company we keep and we certainly dished out our fair share of fight and gumption.