With the curtain raiser against Middlesbrough on the horizon it’s time for Fulham Focus to put you in the mood by looking back at some of our more memorable home victories.
It’s a fixture that has generally been kind to us and it would be nice if another win could be added, to mark the beginning of the Marco Silva era. The rumblings of optimism across social media as we approach the new season has this old git feeling a little uncomfortable.
Let’s hope the faith in good times ahead is not misplaced.
FULHAM 2-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
PREMIER LEAGUE (12/01/02)
Steve Marlet’s astronomical transfer fee always stood against him when his contributions in SW6 were measured, but he proved the match winner in this important home win. Our first season in the top flight after a 33 year wait was something of a struggle so every point was vital; particularly in fixtures against sides around us in the bottom half of the table. Ultimately Boro finished a point and a place ahead of us in 12th with our position 8 points clear of the drop just reward for a solid if unspectacular debut campaign in the Premier League.
This victory was all the sweeter as we recovered from the concession of an early goal, to lead by the interval. Boro centre-back Colin Cooper took advantage of an awful defensive mix-up between Edwin van der Sar and Sylvain Legwinski to nod home a soft eighth-minute opening goal. But Jean Tigana’s side established their slick passing game and substitute Louis Saha needed just five minutes on the pitch to power home a great diving header for the 40th-minute equaliser. Saha then turned provider to slip a pass through to Marlet – nearing full fitness after a two-month injury lay-off – who tucked the ball under Mark Crossley for his third goal in four games on the stroke of half-time.
Fulham saw out the second half in relatively comfortable fashion to reach 30 points after just 21 games and the dizzy height of 9th position. However a defeat in the return fixture on Teesside in February started a run of 6 successive defeats that had us nervously looking over our shoulders for a while.
FULHAM 3-2 MIDDLESBROUGH
PREMIER LEAGUE (16/08/03)
Like the upcoming fixture this game was the first of the season and the first in the permanent reign of a new manager. Chris Coleman had been installed after a successful run as caretaker had helped us stave off the threat of relegation. With his lack of experience though nobody was quite sure how a full campaign would pan out under his guidance so it was a huge fillip to start the season with three points in an exciting see saw match.
The Teessiders grabbed the lead with 10 minutes on the clock, thanks to the determination of Carlos Marinelli. The midfielder robbed Fulham centre-back Martin Djetou, cut inside from the right and slotted past the onrushing van der Sar. Fulham were level just six minutes later, through Steve Marlet. New-boy Jerome Bonnissel crossed from the left, Saha flicked on and Marlet, arriving at pace at the far post, beat Alan Wright to the ball and thundered home.
Junichi Inamoto then produced an awful miss early in the second half. The Japanese international, completely unmarked, made only the slightest contact with the ball when Malbranque teed him up eight yards from goal. But Inamoto made immediate amends when he belted home Fulham’s second. Saha laid the ball off to him 10 yards out and he lashed the ball into the roof of the net. It was all Fulham now and Marlet was close to making it 3-1, his studs just brushing Malbranque’s dangerous ball right in front of goal. Then there was drama at the other end in the 61st minute as Inamoto needlessly handled a loose ball in the area to give away a penalty. Van der Sar flung himself full-length to his right to make a majestic save from Malcolm Christie’s spot-kick.
Fulham took full advantage of the let off and roared into a 3-1 lead in the 69th minute. Malbranque’s chip from the left popped up invitingly for Saha to acrobatically hook the ball into the net from the edge of the six-yard box. Van der Sar handed Boro a lifeline though with nine minutes left. He raced from his goalline as Doriva’s through-ball bounced towards Boro substitute Szilard Nemeth – but lost the race by some distance. Nemeth lobbed him to pull the score back to 3-2. It was a nervy finish but we held on to kick start a season that surpassed our expectations. With Louis Saha on fire and the team blending beautifully we reached a Champions League spot of 4th on Boxing Day. After the Frenchman’s departure to Old Trafford the season petered out somewhat but we still finished the season in 9th. A position we’d have bitten hands off for in August.
FULHAM 3-0 MIDDLESBROUGH
PREMIER LEAGUE (20/12/08)
After Roy Hodgson had fashioned a great escape the previous season, 2008/09 was already turning into a far more comfortable ride when Boro arrived in town for this pre-Christmas fixture.
Maverick Jimmy Bullard gave us a deserved lead just before the break when he pounced on a rebound from a Bobby Zamora shot. We then received a big helping hand soon after the restart. Defender Tony McMahon saw his attempted clearance rebound on to his hand and although there seemed little or no intent, a penalty was given The ever reliable Danny Murphy tucked it away to give us a cushion and nip any potential fight back in the bud. American Clint Dempsey rounded off the scoring when he slotted into the right corner from just inside the area on the hour mark.
The last half hour passed with little incident as a Fulham outfit brimming with confidence stretched their unbeaten run to 7 games and cemented their place in the top half. Unlike Coleman’s debut season though we maintained consistency after Christmas finally finishing in our all time highest position of 7th. I wonder what happened next??
FULHAM 4-3 MIDDLESBROUGH
This game was the final home fixture of a very disappointing first season back in the Championship following relegation. Felix Magath had left us in a desperate position before he was fired and although caretaker Kit Symons had steadied the ship before getting the permanent position, deep rooted flaws continued to dog us. We were fortunate the bottom three were cut some way adrift so were never in imminent danger of the drop although at one stage it did get a little close for comfort. As a result there was far more at stake for the visitors in this game as they still had a chance of getting an automatic promotion spot. With only a win being good enough for them it dictated their approach to the game and with survival already secure for us it led to an open and entertaining match
The defeat was harsh on the Teessiders, who fought back bravely in the final 20 minutes with 10 men after George Friend was dismissed for the foul on Hugo Rodallega that led to Fulham’s second spot-kick. Michael Turner, on loan from Middlesbrough’s promotion rivals Norwich, nodded in the opener from close range after Shaun Hutchinson met a Bryan Ruiz corner. After the break, Konstantopoulos made a superb save to keep out Rodallega’s header but Fulham soon doubled their lead when Ayala fouled McCormack in the area and the Scotland striker converted from 12 yards. Karanka made a triple substitution in an attempt to change the game and it worked almost immediately, with replacement Adam Reach’s low shot beating Marcus Bettinelli.
McCormack’s second penalty looked to have killed the game as a contest, but Ayala headed in Albert Adomah’s cross with 17 minutes to go to set up a tense finish. And after Ayala and Patrick Bamford narrowly missed the target, Kike popped up with the equaliser. But as they pressed for a winner, Boro left their net unguarded and Fulham cleared a corner to McCormack, who rolled the ball into an empty net to seal a dramatic victory in a game that was probably the highlight of a dire season for us.
FULHAM 1-0 MIDDLESBROUGH
Middlesbrough’s last visit to the Cottage was just over 18 months ago but with the ravages of the pandemic and our absence from Craven Cottage it almost seems a lifetime ago. Scott Parker had got us functioning reasonably well but we seemed just short of the quality or consistency required to make a real charge for automatic promotion. Indeed apart from a stellar performance at the start of the season against Millwall we had been turned into quite a functional outfit; disappointing with the talent at our disposal.
This game against Boro turned into a case in point for critics of ‘Parkerball’, as our style had become known. Anthony Knockaert capped a blistering opening half an hour with what proved to be the winner, meeting Joe Bryan’s low fizzing cross to tap home at the far post. It was the least we deserved for our relentless first-half pressure, with the absence of injured top goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic perhaps telling as we squandered at least three gilt-edged opportunities. Ivan Cavaleiro and Josh Onomah were most guilty, both failing to hit the target when well placed, while Denis Odoi deflected Hayden Coulson’s cross on to his own crossbar on a rare foray forward from Boro. The contest was much tighter after half-time, although Odoi thought he had made the game safe when his glancing header found the corner of the net – only to be flagged offside by the barest of margins.
With the absence of a second goal Parker reverted to type and resolved to ‘see the game out’ with defensive substitutions that handed our visitors the initiative. Middlesbrough didn’t have the quality to take advantage and ultimately these tactics paid off in the Championship which culminated in that memorable game against Brentford.
The repetition of these tactics, as our Premier League season unfolded, backfired on Parker though and ultimately cost us our status and indirectly our manager his job. With promotion on his CV, I will always have time for Scott, but his style of play, as much as poor results, leave his departure largely unlamented with the faithful.
I’m excited to see if Marco Silva can deliver on his promise of entertaining football this year. Best I stop now before I start getting too optimistic. COYW.