I headed into tonight’s game against Leicester knowing we have to start turning draws into wins soon…
Following two below-par showings against Brighton and West Brom last week that could seriously impact our year, it’s essential we start grinding out wins soon or else we risk this campaign ending in the same painful fashion as our last two Premier League seasons. Given our excellent performance at the King Power in November, it felt like we could possibly leave with 3 points tonight.
The line-up came out, and the 2 changes we had made seemed strange initially, but once I’d taken a few minutes to reflect they seemed sensible. Introducing Harrison Reed and Kenny Tete to the side in place of Mario Lemina and Bobby Decordova-Reid would help us form a strong defensive base against one of the best sides in the league, despite the Foxes struggles of late. Leicester, of course, are without the talismanic Jamie Vardy, which, on the face of it makes the task seem easier, but as I was reminded by a Leicester supporter on my course, they’d scored 18 goals collectively since he last found the back of the net.
We started off brightly and went close following a surging run down the left from Anguissa, the type of which we’ve been seeing since the start of the season. His cross into the box couldn’t be converted by a stretching Mitrovic, who failed to make any assertive contact with the ball. The tale of us counter-attacking with pace and direction only for it to come loose in the final third is becoming all too familiar this season and needs changing urgently. Hopefully, new boy Josh Maja can bring some quality finishing to the Cottage, though he’ll need time to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.
Sometimes when I watch Fulham, I get a feeling that we’re only ever a good ball away from being behind. And that’s exactly how it played out today. James Maddison put in a delicious ball and it was floated perfectly onto Iheanacho’s forehead. The assist was one of such quality that I could have no qualms about being one behind. Such is the harsh reality of the Premier League, it only takes one moment for the dynamic to change in a game.
After going behind, I felt as if there’d only be one winner. We lacked any real direction in the final third and only had a single effort on target in the first half, Tosin going close with a free header but for a spectacular Schmeichel save. Leicester doubled their advantage just before half time, Maddison registering his second assist of the game as James Justin finished off a flowing counter-attack after rounding Areola in the Fulham goal.
Half time saw the introduction of Cavaleiro and Lemina, one of the two having been dropped following Saturday’s Robert Louis Stevenson inspired showing, for Anguissa and Tete. It was clear Scott had been frustrated by our lethargy upfront and wanted to introduce some pace upfront to compliment Mitrovic, whilst Lemina added dynamism and energy to a midfield that had struggled to cope with Maddison, Choudhury and Tielemans in the first half, not to mention the two wingers cutting inside.
In the second half, we gained a foothold in the game but I never felt like a goal was on the way, or that we had any real chance of getting back into it. We played some nice stuff, but unfortunately, it was a case of too little too late as any chance of winning the game seemed to have sailed on into the distance following the first half. Leicester thought they’d got a third through the returning Ricardo Pereira, but the Portuguese man was instantly flagged offside.
And so it ended in a 2-0 loss for Fulham. Frustrating for sure, but not something we can complain about given Leicester were simply a level above when it truly mattered and were able to keep us at a distance when we eventually began answering questions, despite the fact we didn’t register a shot on target in the second 45. It goes without saying, you aren’t fourth (or eighteenth) in the league without good reason.
Additionally, the results against Brighton and West Brom, plus the fact that Sheffield United have found a bit of form, mean we must start winning soon if we are to stand a chance of survival.
We head into Saturday’s teatime clash with one of the surprise packages of the season, West Ham knowing that only a win will do – it just remains to be seen whether the players can deliver under pressure. Bring it on!