Fulham came in with an exceptional record of only one loss in our last twenty-three championship home games, giving us hope of getting a win against thirteenth side Hull and pushing high into the playoff places.
The three games with a variety of results, a Stoke away loss, a Luton home win and a goalless draw last week away at the Riverside, showed a few of our weaknesses. One of which was being our timidness in the final third and the final pass. There were only two changes coming into Saturday’s match, one being Josh Onomah dropped and Johansen coming in, which could be seen as harsh considering he played nineteen minutes on his first start last weekend: and Bettinelli replacing the suspended Rodak after last weeks events. Johansen coming into the midfield looked like a very good decision going into the game, and as an individual, he showed a fair bit of what we had been missing. But it just wasn’t enough, from anyone.
As Fulham fans, we can never really predict what is going to come next. As the game kicked off expectations were high, Fulham had a chance to push up the table and into playoff spots. However, the first three minutes gave us a vision of what to expect from this match, with Joe Bryan colliding with Josh Bowler and staying down. Eventually, Bryan hobbled off the pitch and tried to walk off the injury, but seemed to end up back in the physios arms and on the verge of tears. As the fans were still focusing on Bryan, Hull broke through the disorganised defence and Grosicki was in the box forcing Bettinelli down to his right to make a nice save. Minutes later we were forced into our first sub early on with Maxime Le Marchand replacing the injured Joe Bryan. This substitution seemed to cause us problems soon after, as Hull opened the scoring after Elder played in a ball to Josh Bowler at the back post. He headed it onto the back of Le Marchand, who looked like he ended up on the pitch by accident and should’ve done better, Bowler shot again and the ball ended up in the back of the net.
After the first goal, Fulham started to push forward, there were a lot more crosses being played into the box and we were actually going forward rather than playing sideways and backwards football. Towards the end of the first half, players were committing themselves into challenges and, only being one goal down, Fulham had hope, it looked like we could easily get a result out of this. The first half ended with Hull one up, but the game nowhere near over. As we went into the second half Bobby Reid was replaced by Knockaert and Fulham looked like they were ready for a tough, but attacking second half. Straight away we were punished for not getting the final shot away as Hull countered our move and Bowen, who scored three in his last two games coming into this fixture, showed his top form after he finished off a Hull attack, dribbling past Mawson and driving the shot past Betts.
This goal really deflated us, the players knew the fans were frustrated. There seemed to be little effort to push forward, players were scared to dribble forward and stood still to find the easiest pass, usually backwards. At the fifty-eighth minute, there was a penalty call after Johansen went down in the box, which to me looked pretty blatant. However, the unreliable ref denied the penalty, only frustrating our fans more and showing that today just wasn’t our day. Scott Parker was trying to get back into the game through substitutions as Kamara replaced Odoi and Fulham played a three back. There still seemed to be no effort to push forward and players didn’t look happy to be playing, and it was just boring play for the fans. One of the few times we did get into the box, led to another penalty shout which, again, was denied by the ref, who really didn’t help our troubles on the day.
Fulham were all over the place. Looking like they could break, but just didn’t. There seemed to be no reason why we shouldn’t have been playing balls into the box, and just attack, attack, attack. After more backwards passing and little chances created, Hull won the ball and drove forward at quick pace. Bowen took a shot straight at Bettinelli, who kept it out, but the ball ended straight in Eaves path as he scuffed his shot into the back of the net. The game ended with three goals put past the Fulham team and none put past the Hull defence. An overall tragic performance, emphasized in the fact that we had seventy-five per cent possession but only one shot on target, showing that there was too much passing backwards and not enough pushing forwards. The Khan’s being at the Cottage for this battering could result in questions being asked of Parker, and there is a bit of divide whether Parker should keep his job. His starting eleven was pretty good and there can’t be too many complaints about the subs. However something went wrong against Hull, Parker’s tactics need to change if we are to push into the playoffs and automatic promotion places.
Next Fulham go to Birmingham where a win is a must, hopefully not a repeat of the final day of the 17/18 season when we went with a party atmosphere but unfortunately finished with a party for Birmingham who were on the pitch on the final whistle as they beat us 3-1 and avoided relegation, for fans sake, and Parker’s sake we must come away with the 3 points this time.