Fulham 2 (Mitrovic 7 pen, Onomah 69)
Leeds Utd 1 (Bamford 54)
I forecast this game to end 2 – 2… and I still think that is actually the very least we deserved from it. But, I did forget to factor in our age old ability as a team to shoot ourselves in the foot and the fact that, despite Marcelo openly recognising our shortcomings in defending corners, I should have realised it was too soon yet to expect that to be remedied, even though it’s been evident all season!
I could have factored in some bad luck too; the loss of Pablo Hernandez before many of us were in our seats was a crucial and heavy blow and one that I immediately felt might well prevent us winning this game while still hoping we’d have enough to draw it. The silly “laying on of hands” by Ben White on Bobby Reid would have gone unpunished in most games too, but referee Tim Robinson looked rather too eager to award the penalty in my humble opinion! Ben White has hopefully learned a valuable lesson for the future.
The problem was that all these factors sort of clubbed together and, when we add in another less than satisfactory performance in front of goal, well, we didn’t really have a chance did we? And that’s a real shame because I didn’t think Fulham were that good. I could easily see how they’d managed to lose three on the spin to Bristol, Brentford and Preston and how, in the absence of those factors I mentioned above, we did more than enough to beat them as well. We took 7 from 9 points against those 3 sides that have just beaten Fulham and, in my opinion, we are are a better side than all of them.
We have to expect the quality teams in the Championship to take their chances better than many we’ve faced recently so it’s against these better sides, (and Fulham are certainly one of those even though I didn’t think they dealt with us very well today) that we have to be clinical against with our own chances. 7 on target from 15 attempts is a better ratio than usual but we can all think of attempts we made today that just were not good enough for a promotion chasing Championship side; I’m thinking particularly of the shot Klich hit the post with and the one late in the game that he spooned over the bar, but there were others.
If we can continue to restrict teams like Fulham to 35% of possession as we did today, then we will limit the possibility of them hurting us, but we must sort these corners out and we must hit the target more often – something we’ve all said all season. If we can, then I still can’t see how even the best sides will be able to overcome us. We’ll get a chance to test that theory very soon of course as we face a high riding Preston on Boxing Day and West Brom on New Year’s Day with an always stubborn Birmingham City sandwiched between those two.
The positives from today? Well, I think we again saw that it will be a very brave man indeed who continues to leave Eddie Nketiah out of the team. No matter how little game time he gets he makes things happen; he scores goals or gets people sent off or, as today, creates problems for the opposition to allow others to score. I just wonder if, now that Pablo is probably out for a while, we may see Marcelo continue with today’s 4 – 4 – 2 second half experiment. Without Pablo we have to play in a different manner and with Eddie’s pace it might just be worth shifting the ball forward more quickly. We have no other fit Pablo replacements anyway so why not give it a go?
Fulham Leeds Utd
Possession 35% 65%
Shots 7 15
On Target 3 7
Corners 4 7
Fouls Committed 15 15