Fulham 2 : Derby County 2 – 17th December 2016

The winning streak is over then. Seven in a row was a great achievement but it’s over now and we need to start again. It’s getting ever so tight in those play off positions (yep, we have no chance of beating Newcastle & Brighton to those
automatic spots). The poor way we conceded two goals in this game and how we were outplayed by an excellent Fulham side have started to ring a few alarm bells in my head. This is going to be difficult. Are the defensive fragilities of McClaren’s first reign
going to return? Are we going to be able to put another winning run together or will inconsistency creep back in? Before I get carried away with worrying about how the rest of the season pans out, this wasn’t all bad. We clawed our way back into the game,
got a draw and were pretty resilient. Just a few brief thoughts then.

 

The changes McClaren made to the team were sort of understandable, sort of mystifying. At this time of year and after a couple of tough games against Forest and QPR there was an obvious need to freshen the side up and rotate a bit. Bryson
in for Hughes was sensible given how uncomfortable Will looked with his broken hand against QPR. Bryson worked his socks off during the game, as you’d expect. Vydra made an impact when he came on at Loftus Road, so his inclusion here made sense. It was a struggle
for him, to be fair. Russell coming in for Weimann did not make sense. If there needed to be a change, Camara had much more of a case. How could Russell jump over him in the pecking order.

 

Looking at the Fulham side, I thought we had a great chance of extending our winning streak. How wrong I was, they were brilliant. Fast, fluent, skilful and dynamic, they caused us problems all game. And this was even without their star
striker. That Martin chappie. Fulham are going to be play-off contenders this season, make no mistake.

 

We did ok in that first half actually. Ince hit the back of the net confidently from an offside position and then scored for real with another fine finish after a hopeful punt up field by Russell. Eight goals so far this season is a fine
total and he was really the only player who caused Fulham any real trouble.

 

Floyd Ayite’s equaliser for Fulham just before half time was really frustrating. We had a perfect view of it from our spot in the stand and, unfortunately, Olsson was nowhere near Ryan Fredericks when he attacked down the right and barely
got any closer as Fredericks advanced into the box. What a time to concede. Any chance of winning was thrown away in that moment.

 

Fulham were way better than us in that second half. Stefan Johansen’s deflected shot off Alex Pearce put Fulham ahead after 61 minutes. There was an air of inevitability about it. There looked like a few defensive lapses in the run up to
that goal, certainly another one from Olsson. Maybe McClaren should be looking at a left back in the January transfer window rather than the other side. Baird had another solid game, by the way.

 

As I think Steve Nicholson has said recently, even when we are under the cosh, as long as our defence has kept us in the game, we have the quality in the side to sneak a result. And that’s the way it turned out this time. After a forceful
run down the right after 75 minutes, Ince won and took a corner quickly and Alex Pearce rose unchallenged to equalise. He’s becoming a bit of a fan’s favourite is Pearce. I’ve never seen him struggle or make mistakes and he appears to be a pretty committed,
eloquent chap. If he stays fit, Shackell will never get a look in this season.

 

It was just a case of us managing the game after that, although it wasn’t particularly sensible to allow Fulham a free kick on the edge of our area. Lucas Piazon smashed a great strike against the bar, so we got away with that. There was
another chance for us though when the ref should have played advantage when we had a free run on goal. He made a bad mistake there but if we’d gone through and scored it would have been a bit of a travesty.

 

So, there you go. Things are delicately poised for us as we go into the Christmas and New Year period. Starting another winning run against Gianfranco Zola’s Brum would be great.

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