Match Reaction: Fulham 1-0 Birmingham City


Image: Fulham FC

Following Tuesday night’s morale boosting-yet-not-particularly-convincing victory down the road, the Whites returned to the Cottage to take on a Birmingham side who came into the game on the back of a resounding home defeat by relegation-threatened Huddersfield.

If it had not been for Christie’s 25 yard thunderbolt on Tuesday, perhaps it would have been a new face in the dugout given the run since the restart, however Scott’s job was saved for another day (although this is based purely on Twitter chatter as opposed to having a direct line to whatever office Tony Khan happens to be in this week). Given the result, it was somewhat unsurprising to see an unchanged lineup and whilst the decision to continue with Decordova-Reid up top is understandable given the fact it’s probably his favoured position, the lack of youthful striking backup raised eyebrows, especially with 9 places on the bench these days. Jay Stansfield had posted a photo of himself on Instagram earlier in the day suggesting that perhaps he’d be in the squad, but unlike Betts, apparently posting on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in the team.

The first half was another display of classic Parker-ball – 80% possession at half time with 2 shots on goal (neither on target) and lucky not to be behind as the toothlessness in attack was equally matched by the sloppiness in defence. Hector, who has been such a solid presence in the backline since he came into the team, hasn’t looked quite as resolute since the season restart and today was no exception (although his 2nd half performance appeared a lot more confident) with his first wayward pass of the day almost leading to a goal, but Rodak was off his line quickly to thwart the on-rushing forward. Not much else can be said about that first 45 aside from the fact if I had been controlling the artificial crowd noise, I would’ve pressed the ‘Booo’ button when the referee blew his whistle to send the teams back to the dressing rooms.

Whilst the first half was turgid, the second half was merely just a bit boring. The away side were clearly happy for the point and despite allowing the Whites to pour forward, not enough was testing Lee Camp in the Brum goal, although he was certainly in fine form when called upon. BDR should’ve scored when he was first to react to Camp’s parry from a Bryan long-ranger, but the ball was tipped over the bar…possibly harsh to say someone else would’ve put it away, given that it was an instinctive reaction save, but they probably would’ve done. There were some smart pieces of play as Fulham continued to push for the all-important first goal, but as has so often been the case this season, there was an extreme lack of killer instinct in the team – given some of the performances from teams in the playoff picture, this is going to make promotion incredibly difficult if that is the route we’re going to end up going…

However, despite the fact it looked as if we were finally going to see a 0-0 at the Cottage for the first time in almost 9 years, the home fans were able to stay home happy as Josh Onomah popped up in the 95th minute to grab all 3 points. The goal itself was a lovely passing move between Cyrus, BDR and Reed, with Onomah drilling in; the sort of move you can tell that the style of play is trying to achieve, yet fails to do so on the majority of occasions.

The referee called an end to proceedings shortly after, with 3 points deserved on the basis of possession but fortunate given the lack of finishing ability for the first 94 minutes. But a win is a win and just about keeps the Whites in contention for that 2nd promotion spot, although it probably more cemented the playoff place given results around them.

Further thoughts:

  • The first game I’ve watched without the FIFA crowd noise; whilst it seems a bit gimmicky on the face of it, not having it does make for less of spectacle (can see a psychology student writing a thesis on this is the near future!). Although it probably would’ve taken a whole load of fake fans to make this game seem particularly interesting.
  • Scott Parker has now probably done enough to see himself through to the end of the season. Beyond that, it would be interesting to know what’s going on in Khan Jr’s mind; no promotion would undoubtedly mean him being replaced, but should there be another Wembley triumph, then what? There’s no way this team, playing in this way, would be able to compete in the Premier League…does it need a new, more experienced manager, or a whole host of new signings…? Good ones this time obviously.
  • Gentleman Jim said Birmingham’s wonderkid, Jude Bellingham, looked “moody” when he came off after a fairly uninspiring 57 minutes…I’m sure a juicy contract at Borussia Dortmund will soon change that!
  • I was thinking that Harry Arter wasn’t having a bad game…and just as I thought that, he got replaced by the man who’d go on to score the winner. What do I know?!
  • I’ve been in the camp that thought not having Mitro might have freed the players up over the last couple of games, as it did against QPR earlier in the season (back in the normal days), but it just seems the same but without a proper striker…however, 0 points with him and 6 points without him in 4 games, not sure what to make of that (ok, these last 2 games were against out-of-form teams, but still!). It would definitely be nice to see one of the younger strikers get a place on the bench though.