Sometimes, everything you try works
Fulham renewed their rivalry with their near neighbors Friday evening before what must have been the largest crowd since the hosts left the Premier League. Manager Kit Symons had been saying that once the new boys got their feet under them, the football at Craven Cottage would be something to see. And so it turned out to be.
Fulham put out what looks to be their default lineup – until James Husband’s loan expires anyhow – with the exception of Ryan Fredericks who replaced the injured Jazz Richards. The way the speedy number 7 patrolled the right touchline, it may be hard to get him off the pitch.
Fulham began the match by knocking the ball about comfortably. There was a lot of one touch stuff on display, with O’Hara and Tunnicliffe especially catching the eye with their accurate long passes. The first goal came just at the end of the 2nd minute when QPR’s Angella calmly watched Moussa Dembele rise alone to nod home his second goal of the season. After a dazzling display of quick, short passes, Ben Pringle found himself free just inside the penalty area and zipped home the second on the 16th minute. Ross McCormack put the match away just after the half-hour to make it 3-0. At this point, Fulham’s defense had been troubled only once.
QPR are a very good side, but they didn’t look like it Friday night. Their defense looked a step slow and the Hoops pretty much lost every challenge on each touch line. It was for this reason that Jamie Mackie replaced Chary on the 35th minute. Mackie is a bit of a bruiser, and I guess the idea was to unsettle Husband and make him less effective. There was a little bit of effort to get back into the game, but the half ended to a chorus of boos from the large QPR contingent who had grown somewhat restive hearing their near rivals chanting “Why are you still here?”
It was a complete surprise when the second half began without Mackie. What he could have done in his ten minutes of activity to upset his manager is a mystery to me. On came Leroy Fer, back from injury, and – as expected – QPR began play by trying to overwhelm their hosts. A funny thing happened, though. Fulham reacted to QPR’s attacks by pressuring Rangers all over the pitch. Fulham looked especially lethal on the break, and it was from one of these counters that McCormack scored the fourth and final goal.
Fulham has been a team of one half pretty much all season, but this was not the case tonight. Every time QPR tried to get back into the game, they found themselves under attack. Who was threatening them? Tunnicliffe … and O’Hara … and Pringle … and Husband … and Fredericks … and Dembele. Not only did QPR never look like cutting the deficit, more clinical finishing by Dembele, Husband, and substitutes LVC and Woodrow could have eclipsed our famous 6-0 thrashing of the R’s back in the Premier League.
Yes, everything worked. I didn’t see anyone to fault for anything, although I’m sure that there will be those that will. The thing is that Fulham showed themselves to be a sharp passing side – short, medium, long – with an eye for attack and the ability to repel counters. In Tim Ream, we may have found the reincarnation of Aron Hughes – the calm, economical, dependable, and elegant support for his #5. When some began calling Jamie O’Hara the new Danny Murphy earlier in the season, I was hesitant to agree, but today he and Tunnicliffe showed steel and creativity in the center of the midfield. Fredericks is crazy good out there. I’ve always valued right backs, and when they are tough in the tackle, and are possessed of blazing speed, then they are especially precious. And Moussa Dembele showed everything you want in a striker in this league. He was both quick and fast, was strong, ran the channels well, set up his teammates, and wasn’t afraid to take a shot or two. His distribution was a bit lacking, but I forgive him that because he tied Onuoha and Henry into knots all match long.
For me, the only thing that didn’t work was my DVR. Although I was promised a recording that lasted 2 hours and 5 minutes, it actually was 1 hour and 50 minutes. Anything that happened after the 85th minute remains a mystery to me.
HatterDon’s Man of the Match decision is a toughie. I narrowed it down to one from Tunnicliffe, O’Hara, McCormack, Pringle, Husband, and Dembele and then I remembered what I used to do on those rare occasions when a Fulham XI dominated all over the pitch while executing a cohesive and coherent game plan. So, a tip of the FFC South Texas sombrero to MotM Kit Symons. Well done Kit and well done all the lads.