Madness sang “Welcome to the house of fun…Welcome to the lion’s den”. Well, these days the lions in the terraces have been replaced by slightly less formidable characters – more young Simba than Mufasa – but there was the hope that the house of fun bit would still apply as Fulham aimed to leapfrog that lot from Yorkshire and occupy the 2nd promotion slot, for the time being at least.
Parker made a couple of changes to the team that saw off Blackburn at the weekend, drafting in Arter for Kmac and Kamara for Cavaleiro, most likely to bring an increased physicality to deal with the more ‘hands-on’ approach of Gary Rowett’s side.
The game kicked off and it’s fair to say the first 20 minutes did not set the tone for the next 70. Before a good number of the travelling fans had made it to their seats, the Whites were a goal to the good, as the combination of Bryan and Mitro paid dividends for the third game in a row. After what looked to be a clever free-kick gone wrong, Bryan managed to get a cross in and Mitro snuck in unmarked to poke Fulham ahead.
Unfortunately, the lead lasted only 5 minutes as a combination of poor marking and terrible officiating allowed Jon Bodvarsson to tap in at the back post from a flicked-on corner, despite the Icelander being a good couple of yards offside. Perhaps the linesman confused the nearby Millwall player for a Fulham one. Or maybe he’s just inept. Who’s to say!
Either way, the goal breathed some life back into the home side and seemingly sucked it out of Parker’s men. 12 minutes after the goal, Bryan clumsily brought down Mahlon Romeo, giving Jed Wallace the chance from the penalty spot. Clearly distracted by the empty tier behind the goal, his attempt for power over placement left the crossbar shaking on its way to the Fulham faithful in the upper section.
After the breathless initial period, the half somewhat petered out as the Whites struggled to find any rhythm in what was a polar-opposite performance from the record-setting match back in August. The much-maligned pitch certainly didn’t help with the passing game but there was a severe lack of impetus from a team who had the perfect opportunity to jump into the top 2. Fulham were presented with a good opportunity to grab the lead on the stroke of half time as Cairney somehow weaved his way through about 5 Millwall players before being tripped 25 yards from goal. However, Decordova-Reid’s effort struck the wall and Mitro’s follow up was straight down the Bialkowski’s throat.
The second half began with a bit more intensity; Onomah and Cairney pulling a few more strings and trying to drive the team forward as the rain fell. A mazy run from Josh, which began on the halfway line, almost saw him put the Whites ahead but he pulled his effort wide. The ball was finding its way down the flanks with AK trying hard on the right but continuing to show why he’s not a starter. In fact, Denis appeared to be the more comfortable winger but despite his best efforts, the Fulham attack was proving to be toothless.
And despite being arguably the best performer in a white shirt, Onomah wasted a golden opportunity, choosing to shoot when a square ball to a clearly enraged Mitro would’ve been the sensible choice. Millwall had a good chance when one of their forwards was put through but Rodak kept his cool and easily kept out the tame effort.
Parker made his first sub with around 20 minutes to go, replacing the hard-working-yet-ineffective AK with Cav, with the Portuguese winger trying to inject a bit more life into a clearly tiring team as they slogged away on the increasingly boggy surface.
Following a performance that will have not endeared himself to the Fulham faithful in the stand, nor those watching around the world, Harry Arter was finally replaced with two minutes to go after he received a kick that left him in some discomfort. Without wishing harm on our own player, there were a majority of fans wishing that had happened a good while earlier as Parker’s brother-in-law put in a performance littered with misplaced balls, momentum-killing backwards passes and a bit of shouting at the ref, with a booking thrown in for good measure. Whilst the Bournemouth loanee has at times shown his usefulness on the pitch, this was a showing that left many wondering why Stef Jo or Kmac hadn’t seen any game time. It was his replacement, Neeskens Kebano, that almost won the game in the last seconds, as his flicked header from a corner looped over the keeper and off the crossbar.
The referee called time on proceedings shortly after and all in all, it was probably a fair result on a miserable evening in SE London. It wasn’t a good performance, and given the conditions, it probably wasn’t a surprise that the passing game never got going, but what was less understandable was why the team allowed the opportunity for a morale-boosting leap up the table slip through their grasp due to sloppy play and an overall lack of quality throughout the game.
The Whites will have to guard against complacency on Saturday when relegation-threatened Barnsley head to SW6, but hopefully a return to a grass-covered pitch, and a passionate home support, will result in a “Cottage of fun”!