The international break gave Fulham and Scott Parker an opportunity to galvanise as a group and build on a narrow one goal defeat to Wolves last time out…
During that time, the club had introduced new signings in the form of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Joachim Anderson, Tosin Adarabioyo and Terrence Kongolo. With three out of the four new additions being at centre back, it was very clear where Scott Parker and Tony Khan felt they needed to strengthen. I feel like we went into this fixture against Sheffield United knowing it was a great opportunity to pick up all three points. To survive in this league, you have to beat the teams around you and no disrespect to The Blades, but I believe they will be involved in a relegation scrap with us.
Unfortunately, new signing Andersen has picked up an ankle ligament injury and will be out for the foreseeable future. There were debuts for both Loftus-Cheek and Adarabioyo, while Ademola Lookman was also rewarded with his first full start after impressing off the bench against Brentford and Wolves. In my opinion all three were impressive, in particular Lookman, but both Loftus-Cheek and Adarabioyo had a positive impact on the team. It is quite clear that Adarabioyo comes from Manchester City; he was very comfortable on the ball and played some exquisite forward balls into midfield. I thought Loftus-Cheek was decent throughout and it is pleasing to see him get 80 minutes under his belt. He is a driving force in that midfield and constantly made powerful runs from deep in order to get us up the pitch. Lookman for me was the standout player once again; every time he gets the ball there is an air of excitement and you almost expect him to produce a moment of magic. He stepped up 77 minutes in with a dancing run where he evaded two or three of the Sheffield United defenders before firing a left footed shot into the top right-hand corner, leaving Aaron Ramsdale in goal absolutely helpless.
The game itself could be judged as a game of two halves. I feel as though they had the better of the first half and created some good opportunities to score. However, we certainly dominated the second half and in the end Scott and the boys will look back at this game as two points dropped. There was a nervy 15-minute spell in the first half where they looked as though they could cut through us and score at every opportunity. Oli McBurnie had a great chance with a free header from close in but luckily, he didn’t get the right connection, yet it still forced Alphonse Areola to react quickly and make the save. Just a few minutes later the home side did have the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside. Throughout the game our back four was brave and held a high line, this caught out Sheffield United’s attackers on a few occasions. We managed to ride the storm and most importantly get to the break all square.
Around the hour mark we were gifted the best chance to go ahead in the game so far. After a corner was swung in, substitute Jack Robinson gave away a penalty by raising his arm whilst challenging for the ball with Loftus-Cheek. This enabled our talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic the chance to score from 12 yards; with him grabbing a goal for Serbia in the week you would be confident on him slotting home. Unfortunately, Mitrovic rather uncharacteristically blazed the penalty over with the ball just scraping the crossbar on its way into the stands. Despite this setback we continued to play with good intensity and were searching for that elusive goal. On 77 minutes Lookman did what he was brought into the side to do and broke the deadlock. Despite looking threatening all game the winger had not quite manufactured a clear chance at goal for himself. He picked up the ball around 25 yards out and still had a lot to do. With his head down and only one thing in his mind, Lookman managed to trick his way past two, with a slice of luck thee ball ricocheted into his path and he smashed the ball into the back of the net.
We were in complete control of the game and looked certain to pick up our first win of the season. But the game went from bad to worse for Mitrovic about five minutes from the end. After a VAR review, a penalty was awarded to the home side when Mitrovic swiped at the ball in the box and caught the attacking player. He is the first player to both miss and concede a penalty in the same again since Mikel Arteta did so for Arsenal back in 2012. Billy Sharp stepped up and smashed the ball straight down the middle of the goal to equalise. We were pushing for the winner all the way to the end and Mitrovic rounded off one of his worse performances in a Fulham shirt by missing with an open header from close range; the type of chance he buries nine times out of ten.
There were many positives to take from the game again and although we didn’t get our first win, we now have a chance to build on the point we did gain. Our next three games are all winnable and I believe Parker will be targeting these as a chance for us to pick up points. Lookman is an extremely exciting prospect and adds real quality to our front three. It just wasn’t Mitro’s day but if Lookman can keep providing sparkling performances then I think the Serbian will get some quality service and score goals. Adarabioyo looked assured at the back both on and off the ball. I think we have looked more settled at the back in the past two games and will only improve in that department as the season progresses.