Birmingham away on a Wednesday night. It’s a cruel gesture from those in charge of the fixture list- and with no trains back to London after full-time, going to the game seemed like a silly idea. Especially when you consider that last time outwe lost 1-0 to newly promoted Blackpool with a performance to match the scoreline.
However, I couldn’t resist the urge to go and set off from London at about midday, hoping for a positive experience. Fast forward a few hours spent wandering around Birmingham city centre, it was time to check the team sheets and head to the stadium.
Four changes were made from the weekend selection. Joe Bryan, Harrison Reed, Harry Wilson and Nathaniel Chalobah, making his full debut, came in for Ivan Cavaleiro, Antonee Robinson, Domingos Quina and Josh Onomah. It’s testament to the club and our new and improved transfer policies that we are able to replace 4 high quality players with another 4 of equal calibre.
Upon arrival in the ground, I was told that due to away fan numbers being so low, around 300-500 having travelled, we would all be sat in one quarter of our originally allocated seats. This was fine to begin with, and admittedly didn’t affect me as I parked myself right in the corner closest to the pitchbut as more and more fans arrived the area became quite over-crowded yet the stewards refused to let fans move across the steps to sit in the next block.
The game itself got off to a fast start, and we took the lead when Denis Odoi headed in for his first goal in Fulham colours since the Oldham cup game in January 2019.
I thought we looked dominant from there on in and whilst there wasn’t too much attacking action we were resolute at the back and weathered wave after wave of attacks from Birmingham. Tosin Adarabioyo was imperious in dealing with and clearing ball after ball.
One player who still doesn’t look entirely at home in this Fulham side is Paulo Gazzaniga. The keeper had several shaky moments in the first half and doesn’t seem capable of being able to just put his foot through the ball when under pressure.
Our lead was doubled shortly before the break, from, of all places, the penalty spot. In recent times Fulham and particularly Aleksandar Mitrovic haven’t had the easiest of times from 12 yards out. Nathaniel Chalobah, who made an outstanding impact on his debut, was scythed down on the half-turn inside the box. Mitrovic struck it hard to Matija Sarkic’s right to make it 2-0 and score his first penalty for Fulham since September 2020.
After the break, service was resumed as it had been in the first 45, with Harry Wilson tucking home after a beautiful through ball from Chalobah. Whilst Wilson was clean through on goal, I’d got up from my seat and was stood next to the steps anticipating what was to come.
When I saw the ball hit the back of the net I sprinted down the steps towards the players who were celebrating in front of a newly noisy away end. What I didn’t realise was that in getting to where I was now stood I’d evaded two security guards and two policemen (oops) and that I was alone in celebrating in front of the players. If you watch the highlights back you can see me running down as Wilson goes to celebrate.
The victory was sealed when Mitrovic got his second of the night, firing home to make it 4-0. This time I thought I’d better remain with the rest of the fans but the celebrations were just as passionate on mine and the players behalf.
Two goals was also the perfect early birthday present for Mitro, who I’m sure is celebrating as I write this on his 27thbirthday. From me to you Aleksandar, hope you have a brilliant day (how can you not after that result?)
Troy Deeney scored from the spot to give Birmingham fans something to smile about (they haven’t got much else going for them….) and soon after the full-time whistle went to seal the perfect bounce-back from Saturday.
It was a scintillating performance across the board. Gazzaniga recovered from his early stutters to make some great saves, the defence remained calm and collected throughout. Reed, Seri and Chalobah are a sight to behold in midfield and Mitrovic, Wilson and Reid looked imperious and incisive all night long.
To come away to a team who had conceded three all season up to that point and leave having scored four is very pleasing and lays down a marker for the rest of the league as to our quality.
Four goals. Three Points. Two for Mitro. One, our position in the table. Roll on Reading!