Well…What a game. The passion and history in this fixture really shone through the noise in the crowd. The big decision going into this game was, who was going to replace Mitrovic? And what a decision it was by Parker.
It was that time of year. A Fulham vs Rangers derby. A cheeky Fulham Focus meetup was in order at one of the finest pubs (I mean it was a Wetherspoons, but that’s not the point). Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to arguably one of the biggest games of the season. But from that point onward hopes seemed to dip quite quickly. The lineups were announced and everyone was waiting to see Bobby Reid up top, ready to open his goal scoring account. However, as we know it didn’t exactly go like that. Kamara was tasked with filling the void of our Serbian talisman which left a very small minority of fans happy with this decision, a minority which would soon be proved correct for having such optimism in our forgotten Frenchman. But humble pie was the last thing on the menu in the opening half hour of the match. You would imagine being a West London Derby that the players would be up for it, starting on the front foot and expressing an aggressive edge given the occasion. In that respect, Scotty should be ideal for motivating the players, he played in enough London derbies during his career! But it was the wrong set of players who appeared more enthused by the fixture as Parker’s side brought Black Friday forward a week, defending so cheaply that they might as well have given Rangers a three goal head start, as that’s what our first half deserved.
The atmosphere was electric leading up to kick off. This game really gives the winners bragging rights for months until we play again, it was a must win. The fans were behind the players as the game started. Like I said it gets bad, if I were you I would skip out this paragraph! The whites were getting put under immense pressure and QPR had their first corner of the game in 2 minutes. Fortunately nothing game of it. Unfortunately a ball was played into the box from the right, after giving QPR a cheap throw in, and despite Odoi’s best efforts to clear it off the line, Hugill’s goal stood and Rangers took the lead. Minutes later another ball was played in and Ream came considerably close to tapping the ball into his own net, but luckily firing against the post. Fulham still hadn’t learnt their lesson as our rivals pushed and pushed, forcing Rodak to make a series of outstanding saves.
Surely it could only get better, and in our favour, that’s exactly what happened. The crowd were still spurring the players on as there more and more attacks. The ball came to Denis Odoi, who pulled off a simply beautiful turn and pushed down the right flank. Under pressure, he launched the ball into the box to find Mitro’s replacement in the perfect position to head the ball past Lumley. The Cottage absolutely exploded, and you could just tell that goal meant everything to us fans. After that goal, we really were playing sublime football. After a string of passes skipper, Tom Cairney, chested down the ball and played the ball straight into Cavaleiro’s path, as he ran closer and closer to goal and eventually smacking the woodwork with a good effort. After 1 minute of added time, Fulham went into the Changing rooms with a draw and were ready to push on.
The second half kicked off and the players looked more ready than ever. However it was a quiet start to the second half despite a few QPR attacks. At the 54th minute Harrison Reed went down injured and after a short stoppage was replaced by Bobby Reid. The substitution seemed to bring light and energy into the game as he linked up well with Stef Jo to create some nice attacks. Eventually Johansen won the ball after a poor pass from Lumley and played a perfectly weighted pass into Kamara’s path who only needed to slot it passed the oppositions goalkeeper, which he just about managed to do. The eruption from the Hammy end was one of the best in the last few years and you could just feel how much that goal meant to all our fans.
Fulham only had 25 minutes of normal time to hold on, and honestly it was one of the worst 25 minutes of my life. QPR were applying a ridiculous amount of pressure, of which our defence just about managed to deal with. There was the occasional Fulham attack but it tended to be all QPR for the last section of the game. Rodak again deserves credit, he controlled his box so well, and made another series of saves during the nerve racking period of play. Scott Parker made two subs between 80 and 90 bringing on Christie for Knockaert and big Kevin McDonald to try and hold this lead. Christie wasn’t too bad and seemed to pick up where he left off against Birmingham, making a few clearances and challenges to prevent some of QPR’s attacks. 5 minutes were added on, only adding to nerves, but thankfully the ref blew the whistle and a relieved sigh / cheer was heard all around the Cottage. If Kamara can stay on this form, the majority of us owe him an apology, what a night he had. Bobby Reid had a class game in midfield with Johansen creating most of our chances. Scott Parker is going to have some difficult decisions to make going into the Derby game on Tuesday. Although it may not have been the best performance, with only 50% possession and 11 shots, compared to their 19 shots, it was a big win for the manager, players, fans and the club as a whole.
WEST LONDON IS OURS!