Positives and negatives: Fulham 3-0 Millwall

Cameron Ramsey 9th February 2022

We are top of the league, and these three points are like no other. Cam Ramsey reflects on our victory against Millwall, as we remember one of our own.

The lads spoke of courage and self-belief following our FA Cup exit to Manchester City and at a lessened rate and tempo, a routine, professional dub was achieved as Gary Rowett’s Millwall succumbed. The Lions rallied, they weren’t to be demeaned by the Championship’s runaway leaders but resistance was futile.

6 points ahead, Hull City on Saturday, Marco Silva’s Fulham are building in confidence, they’re snubbing limitations for expansion and on Tuesday, an emotional matchday of profound importance, the Whites marched on, as one.

Positives

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Paul’s touching tribute

Flowers rested, an 11th-minute applause observed by both sets of fans, a heart-warming gesture of respect once play had come to a halt, everything about Fulham Football Club is beautiful, genuine and precious. I have never felt a deeper love for our club. Together, compassionately, we honoured Paul Parish and we will continue to do him and his immensely inspiring family proud. In unison, we recognised the importance of tenderness, the sacredness sympathy, as well as empathy, and in the midst of tragedy, we celebrated the life of a man who was one of us, Fulham to the core.

Players, Silva, Boa Morte, they all feel the emotion within the terraces and as they offered their condolences and considerations, embracing Clare and Fliss singularly, sincerely, solidarity and connectedness coursed through the masses. This is what it means to support Fulham. This is why our wholesome little pocket of SW6 is worth giving a damn about. We care for our own, and we will never stop being a family fastened by a common passion for the club and unmistakably, one another. Paul, that victory belongs to you.

Mitro’s making history

How many more times are we likely to witness the speaker box celebration in the next 17 league fixtures? In 27 games, Aleksandar Mitrovic has smashed 30 Championship goals and following the Serb’s clinical double against Millwall, he is only one goal behind Ivan Toney’s short-lived record. There’s levels to this game, England’s second division is not to be taken lightly and Mitro, with dynamite in every diverted effort, is primed to explode statistics that have no right to be broken. Ominously for opposing defences, Mitro wasn’t even trying on Tuesday, the odd routine grapple with Shaun Hutchinson was not an exertion, and he still ran riot. Pouncing on spillages, sparking a counter for the third of the evening, identical to our goal against Manchester City, Mitro’s all-round intuition is evolving, rapidly.

Only two players have dispatched 30+ goals in a Championship season before Aleksandar, and he’s done so with virtually half a season left to savour. Our opponents on the night, for frightening context, have 29 goals collectively and Barnsley, bless ’em, have a paltry return of 18. Fucking hell. We are England’s highest scoring side, without Mitro’s goals we’ll still have 57 goals and that would be 12 more than AFC Bournemouth. Our very own Charles Jones worked out that we’d have 45 points if only Mitro’s goals counted this season, and that would’ve put us joint-6th in the standings, directly following full time. What we have, then, is a man that can get promoted on his own. I am shook.

Nathaniel Chalobah

Fantastic at the Etihad, Nathaniel Chalobah started his second consecutive game for Fulham and he stirred, yet again. Plotted just ahead of Fulham’s central defensive pairing of Tim Ream and Tosin Adarabioyo, Chalobah acted as a third defensive despot, safeguarding our spine manfully whilst hurling his body into the firing line, voluntarily. He and Tosin cooperated reliably, as play filtered out from the back, Nathaniel sought to retrieve possession from the centre-half, and patterns gradually started to form with a progressiveness, conceived by the duo’s interpretation of how their team should approach each scenario.

As he did with Jack Grealish, Chalobah irritated Millwall’s midfield contingent, inciting turbulence and scuppering the visitors’ attempts to break free in central areas. Cynical, cunning, intrepid, the 27-year-old has slotted into Fulham’s matchday plans seamlessly and his inclusions of late have been justified, as well as wholly appropriate. Our engine room is a supercharged V8, and Chalobah is the shock absorber that’s acclimatising to endurance.

Fabio Carvalho

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Engrossed in the moment, refusing to dwell on what could’ve been, Fabio Carvalho isn’t listening to the noise muffling his future because in Fulham’s famous black and white, his investments are indicative of his desire to catapult his current employers back to the Premier League, where he’ll presumably reside until the day he retires. Sharpened, prowling within the gullies between Mitro and his midfield counterparts, Carvalho was a piercing protagonist that sucked Millwall into conceding reckless challenges, and with every untimely hack at the electrifying teen’s shin pads, the Whites procured territory and stayed put.

Involved in Fulham’s second and third goals of the night, Fabio was unlucky not to have notched a brace himself, although by him simply being in situ as the Whites peppered the target, magnetising attention, Millwall were preoccupied and distracted. The 19-year-old is a marvellous carrier of possession and a highly beneficial diversion, and as the Lions gravitated foolishly towards the starlet’s mesmerising boldness, other tantalising offensive threats were enabled to slink into lethal scoring zones undetected.

Neco’s warm welcome

Soaking up a warm welcome to his new temporary stomping ground, Neco Williams began affairs remarkably, tracking and counteracting Millwall’s right-sided advancements rigorously, and while he tired towards the latter stages of the game, his eagerness to subscribe to Silva’s plans since joining on loan from Liverpool has been significant.

Compelled to overlap wherever and whenever possible, Williams engineered our opener by squeezing a cut-back into Mitro’s path, via a favourable deflection. A common feature of his game, the young Welshman supported his fellow countryman Harry Wilson consistently, and it’s a partnership that’s tried and tested on the international stage. There is, however, a naivety where his positional understanding’s concerned, and as effective as he was at shadowing runners, he was outfoxed irregularly and ultimately, his untutored susceptibility could’ve caused havoc for the Whites. Having admitted that, Williams is an outstanding right-back that’s currently a scant prototype of his potentiality and in the Championship, he’ll learn to lock down his portion of the pitch, unrepressed and reassured.

Bobby scores again

WIth just under 15 minutes of normal game time to navigate, Bobby Decordova-Reid was thrust into action to enliven Fulham offensive exercises and the pliant attacker’s lively enterprise was recompensed in the 87th minute. Neeskens Kebano was terrific as per usual, although the winger’s evening had expired and BDR resumed where his teammate left off. Distressing Millwall’s fullbacks as he sporadically swapped channels, the Jamaica international jumped the visitors’ scraggly defensive line to nudge home Carvalho’s cross-come-shot, and I couldn’t be more elated for him.

Converting opportunities into goals hasn’t been Bobby’s strength this season, but with 2 goals in his last 2 outings, the 29-year-old’s seemingly finding his groove in front of the target and that only reinforces our already terrifying net-bulging battalion. Decordova-Reid is a model professional, because though he may not be the first name on the team sheet, he’ll always pull his weight, whether it be as an auxiliary wingback or a supplementary goal-getter. Players on the fringes can learn a great deal from BDR’s attitude to the cause, he is Denis Odoi, the secondary edition.

Rodak’s exceptional shut out

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A first clean sheet for Marek Rodak since Fulham’s 7-0 savaging of Reading is something to acknowledge, and appreciate, we shall. Rodak, even though Fulham have run out comfortable winners in domestic meetings gone by, hasn’t garnered the kindest of words, however nothing repairs muddied reputations, for a ‘keeper, quiet like an authoritative outing alongside a set of game-preserving saves. 2-0 is a precarious cushion, if the Lions managed to bite back, a frantic ending would’ve encroached but fortunately, the Slovakian stopper was wide awake.

Millwall rarely found daylight within our defensive third, although there were instances where they should’ve converted and Rodak, active and instantly responsive, thwarted their goal-destined efforts. First it was Jed Wallace who couldn’t slam past Marek’s outstretched frame, and then it was Benik Afobe’s turn to spurn a gilt-edged chance to lessen the deficit from point-blank range. The 25-year-old wasn’t called upon too often, however when he had to stand firm and impede, he did so exceptionally. An unblemished result, credited to Rodak’s whetted handiwork.

Negatives

Slightly undercooked Cairney

Players as influential as Tom Cairney are not going to operate at full capacity for the season’s entirety, especially after the injury problems TC’s endured in the past year or so but nevertheless, when primary overseers of possession are lukewarm to the occasion, alarm bells begin to ring. Typically, Cairney waltzes away from traffic unscathed but on Tuesday night, he was ambushed by Millwall’s stubborn press in the early stages, and he couldn’t control the tempo without being apprehended. Initially, the playmaker’s contributions were markedly ordinary, which in itself is a defect for a player of his creative esteem. He sold his teammates short with limp dabs disguised as faint passes and thereupon, he couldn’t interlink with our offensive trio fluently.

He eventually made way for Harrison Reed in the 71st minute and as he headed for the dugout, the exhaustion in the 31-year-old’s posture was apparent. Cairney’s tasked to cover more ground than ever before in Silva’s structure, he’s deployed to lurk within advantageous regions within the bodies and support the longevity of our patterns from flank to flank as we formulate inroads, and that takes some getting used to for sure. Physical fatigue, if treated correctly, is actually beneficial as boundaries can be pushed even further but if it’s abused without respite, deep-lying wounds can invariably be aggravated. Rest up, king, and see you Saturday afternoon.

Antonee Robinson, again

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I’m still baffled as to how Antonee Robinson is an international-standard footballer. It’s beyond me. All I want is somebody else to bleat about on a weekly basis, but Jedi’s got that privilege buttoned down, and if football’s supposed to be an art form, his is medium is abstract. From detestable first touches, misinformed passes that sapped momentum and aimless detours down blind alleys, Robinson’s performance was objectionable, and as the gap between the American and Joe Bryan isn’t necessarily clear cut, perhaps Silva should look elsewhere within the club’s system for a refreshing alternative.

One candidate that springs to mind is Ziyad Larkeche. The 19-year-old left-back’s been a stand-out component within out U23 set-up this term and is definitely due a call-up to the first-team proper. Ballsy, energetic, the Frenchman is a devout disciple of hard work and dedication, and in 15 Premier League 2 outings, he’s netted 3 goals alongside 2 assists, a productive return that could certainly be harnessed within a platform such as the Championship. Antonee’s infuriatingly maleficent, Bryan’s just as inconsistent, so let’s release another hungry youngster into the wild and see how he survives.