Fulham have lost 5 games so far this term with 3 of them coming at home. That’s Nottingham Forest, Hull City and now Bristol City returning home from Craven Cottage with victories tucked away in their back pockets and that’s simply unacceptable. We’re still 3rd, just, but that was far from a satisfactory performance.
I’m not gonna cry, it’s a bit early for that sort of pathetic nonsense, although there’s lots of chaotic talking points to dissect, so expect a few petulant tantrums here and there. Lee Johnson’s men squeezed, frustrated and practised their game plan expertly. Another reality check by another resilient outfit. That’s what the Championship chucks at you at you’ve got to accept it.
Miraculously, we’re still in the hunt and we’re still, somehow, relevant in this merciless battle for supremacy. I know that sounds mad, but crazier things have happened. 23 games unbeaten and all that. Let’s start over, regroup and prepare for Preston North End. Deepdale on a dismal Tuesday evening, what a delightful prospect.
Simpson’s Sinful S**tshow
I’ve a few choice words for Jeremy Simpson, but I’ll try not to drag myself down to his deplorable level. Referees will get immeasurable dog’s abuse, usually for the tiniest of discrepancies, but the guy we had adjudicating over proceedings on Saturday afternoon was nothing short of a disgusting disgrace to the professional game. I’ve better officiating on a Sunday morning from an overweight bloke called Barry that’s known for bringing bags of cockles to his local at 10pm on Tuesdays. Bullied by players, coaching staff and fans from both sides, Simpson single-handedly ruined a perfectly good encounter and was the pantomime villain you’d love to punch in the face, twice.
Simpson, from the very first peep of his whistle – which was ignored at vital stages of incomprehensible controversy – conducted himself like a man in the jaws of a famished lion. A rabbit caught in the headlights, he didn’t have the foggiest of ideas to what was happening before him. Tempers boiled over, of course, but Fulham’s discontent was fanned and fuelled by Simpson’s perplexing actions and decisions. No law, no order, the Whites incurred 6 cautions compared to Bristol’s 2, but the majority of them were completely justifiable. How can you respect someone that’s quite clearly an inept moron?
I’m talking like I’m a qualified ref myself, but we watch and play enough football to know when a foul’s a foul and when a penalty’s a penalty. In the 93rd minute, Neeskens Kebano was toppled in the penalty area. The only viable outcome was a penalty, it was stonewall (sick and tired of hearing that phrase) but Simpson, obviously watching the boats sail by on the Thames, was oblivious to the clear and obvious infringement that unfurled in front of thousands and inexcusably waved away Fulham’s inevitable protests. Incensed by Simpson’s sheer stupidity, the game was marred and spoiled by one of the Championship’s bumbling work experience referees. I hate VAR, but I now loathe Simpson even more, the incompetent, moronic cretin. Blacklisted as an imbecile, not a bad day’s work, Jez.
Dawdling Defence Debunked
Smacked of our defeat against Nottingham Forest, that. Far too much time and respect was given to Bristol in our own defensive third and you’ve got to credit the visitors, they looked extremely, with Josh Brownhill and Niclas Eliasson pulling strings and luring their respective markers out of their comfort zones. The Robins angled threatening crosses into our 18-yard box, testing our rearguard’s aerial and physical fortitude. We’ve seen Forest and Charlton Athletic net from similar positions along the channels and, even before Brownhill’s nodded opener, our target was peppered. Praise Marek Rodak for clinging onto Famara Diedhiou point-blank header in the 15th minute, though.
Frankly, we didn’t have an answer to Bristol’s persistence along the channels and they routinely initiated offensive sequences along the touchlines. Denis Odoi and Joe Bryan had to commit themselves but our guests navigated possession superbly, snipping our fullbacks out of the picture with swift, uniformed sequences. Defensively, Fulham’s cut and thrust evaporated and against any side with an ounce of attacking flair, we’re the masters of our own plight. Diedhiou and Andreas Weimann tampered and Tim Ream, alongside Alfie Mawson, were ill-prepared powerless.
Their first goal highlighted just how vulnerable we really are at the back and their second, well, that was a training drill. Pedestrian, lacklustre, the Whites held the door open for the Robins to slalom through without being patted down for sharp objects. Bristol’s concealed weapons, named Adam Nagy and Diedhiou, were on the same wavelength in the 76th minute, with the Hungarian midfielder pulling the ball back to his Senegalese teammate, who ghosted into a prime position unopposed to tap into a vacant goal mouth. We’ve conceded some awful, awful goals this season but that has to be up there. We were trudging after shadows with a line wonkier than Mick McCArthy’s hooter but I can’t discredit the move itself, it was delicate, methodical and brutal.
Neeskens Nearly Notches
Emerging like a lost shoe or a £10 note you’d spun through the wash, the return of one of our forgotten sons, Neeskens Kebano, was a pleasant sight to behold in the 82 minute. Perhaps if we was thrown into the mix 5 minutes earlier, a point could have salvaged a point indefinitely. Unlike Ivan Cavaleiro, there’s nothing about Kebano’s ability that’s too complicated. Unwilling to peter out of proceedings before his afternoon had even gotten started, the 27-year-old got at Jack Hunt with sudden spurts of energy, and enthusiasm. Surging into the thick of the action, the peripheral squad member was the Whites’ beating heart in the dying moments.
Kebano dug out enticing crosses, prompting Fulham to ramp up the tempo whilst administering possession sensibly to prolong the hosts’ late fightback. Bristol were troubled by Kebano’s penetrative movement and they resorted to dark tactics in order to curb his constant examination of their 18-yard-box. The penalty that never was, we’ve already turned this dubious moment over, but if Kebano could have stayed on his feet, he almost certainly would’ve done so. He’s an honest player that wants to contribute positively wherever possible and he deserved spot kick at the very least. The chance to lace an effort at goal with minutes to spare? Come on, behave, it was a blatant foul.
Not resting on the ref’s despicable decision, however, Kebano picked himself up amid the clamour and channelled his emotions constructively. Supporting runs enabled Fulham to charge into imposing areas and with Cyrus Christie lifting into Aleksandar Mitrovic’s usual domain in the 96th minute, Kebano adjusted his miniature frame and cracked the crossbar with an arching header. Inches away from saving the day, Kebano should be encouraged by his strong-willed cameo appearance because he was a beacon of hope and ambition, a direct instigator with a convincing impact.
Favourite French Fancy
After trawling through numerous tweets following the match, it seems I’m not the only one that would rather Aboubakar Kamara start in place of Anthony Knockaert every week from now on. The Brighton & Hove Alvion loanee – as talented and experienced as he is – dwells on possession and constrains himself with needless flicks and step overs, where he should be fizzing balls across the face of goal. Kamara, on the other hand, isn’t capable of such beguiling trickery, but he has got a much more effective final product and, once again, I’m sat here in a state of disbelief as I bang Abou’s drum, loud and proud. How times change, eh?
Replacing Onomah in the 68th minute, Kamara lifted his head and supplied at will, recognising Mitro’s presence. Much like Kebano, AK47 doesn’t mince his approach. If he tries too much he runs the risk of tangling himself in his own legs, so he opted to bolt at Tommy Rowe in the only way he really knows how. Ferociously. A jet propelled mass of muscle with Tesco bags for parachutes, Kamara lifts performances, elevating the squad’s collective application. Once a poisonous inside saboteur, hell-bent on disrupting the camp’s harmony, the reformed Frenchman is an avid advocate of Parker’s do-or-die ideology.
He’s still technically suspect and I’m not entirely sold on his touchy temperament, but he certainly took his 86th-minute strike very well indeed. Last season, he would’ve blasted the ball into a parallel universe although he’s seemingly refined his composure. Knockaert would be your natural choice but Kamara is a wildcard that has so much more to offer. Redeeming himself to the entire club this term, Abou’s a mercurial component of the fold that’s finally coming good, and we have to harness that raw power and intensity to our advantage, even if it’s on a hit and miss basis. Unpredictable, yes. Persuasively essential to our system, without question.
Contentious Central Cohesion
Balance in the middle of the park is key. Without fundamental understandings to prop up our structure, the Championship would chew you up and spit you back out. It would be an exceedingly painful existence. Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen formed a relatively familiar partnership and connected efficiently, whilst also operating as a stick and twist double pivot. If one pressed, the other would sit and vice-versa. Joshua Onomah completed the midfield triangle, but that’s where things went a little pear-shaped in my opinion. You can only use what’s available, but the former Tottenham Hotspur prospect isn’t worthy of first-team football, not just yet, anyway.
Onomah severely lacks mobility and is desperately sluggish with the ball at his feet, so building through the middle was a chore. He was pressed and quelled by Ashley Williams and Nathan Baker and was way out of his depth. I don’t know what Parker sees in him, but he isn’t that kind of player. Maybe he’s being played out of position, because I vaguely see a potential holding midfielder in him. Shoot me down, but his size and stature could be employed in a deeper lying role. He isn’t quick or intricate enough to draw the opposition out of kilter, but I did notice him intercept play once or twice, I think, so maybe his innate attributes could be transformed slightly to accommodate a more conservative role.
Perhaps I’m peeing into the wind with that one, but we’re missing Cairney in his usual No.10 capacity, that’s for sure. Johansen is a mainstay, so is TC, but it’s that third spot within the midfield department that’s still up for grabs. Injuries have stricken our matchday selection recently, although Onomah isn’t the solution to that particular dilemma. Personally, I’d love to see Matt O’Riley get a proper introduction to life in the first-team. Challenge the youngster to invigorate the engine room and take matters into his own hands – he’ll have excellent mentors beside him every step of the way. We were missing Harry Arter, Harrison Reed and Bobby Decordova-Reid against Bristol and other than StefJo, there wasn’t really any bite in central zones. Everything appeared to be laboured, jumbled and out of sync.