Image: Getty via Talksport

19 out of 29 since joining the club. It’s a record that equates to a 65% success rate (xG suggests it should be more like 75%). Three from six this season. It doesn’t matter how you present the data; it makes for grim reading. Fulham fell to defeat in Newcastle, and it was an all too familiar feeling after a spot-kick failed to result in a goal for The Whites.

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s career has had some incredible highs, and there can’t be many, if any, who do not regard him as Fulham’s greatest goal scorer of the modern era (for arguments sake, let’s say this is the period since Mohamed Al Fayed assumed ownership of the club). But there has been one season during his stay that was far from a success, and it was punctuated by penalty misses. One against Sheffield United in an early season six-pointer, and then the decisive penalty against Scotland in the Euro 2020 playoffs that saw Serbia miss out on a place at the international tournament.

Since those unfortunate events, he has bounced back, breaking records and leading his nation to a World Cup, where despite being less than 100%, he contributed two goals in three games. One thing that doesn’t appear to have taken the same upturn, is his penalty taking. The double-kick incident at St James’ Park robbed him of a positive return to his former club, and possibly prevented Fulham extending their five-match winning streak. Scoring certainly could have kept an unbeaten run alive.

After previous misses Marco Silva has been adamant that Mitro is the team’s penalty taker and will continue to be the first choice from 12-yards. But after the latest failed conversion, the conversation will arise again as to whether he is the best man for the job. Post-match the Head Coach showed the first signs of conceding that a change may be needed. Silva is a very thoughtful coach, he once again alternated between Tosin and Issa Diop for this fixture, to better suit the task at hand. That he wouldn’t consider how best to maximise, to this point, the most penalties received in the league would be out of character.

The argument for Mitrovic maintaining his status as the designated taker is that removing it could negatively affect his confidence, but surely missing them is just as, if not more damaging. The striker has spoken of the emotional impact seeing Allan McGregor keep out his effort for Serbia. It led to what the striker has himself termed “a hard time”. Had Mitrovic scored the three penalties that have not hit the net this season, he would be on fourteen goals, ahead of Ivan Toney and one behind Harry Kane. Even without penalties, he scores at a good rate, and would still be on track to beat his best season total in the Premier League had he not taken the three he’d scored. The other argument would be that this occassion was just misfortune. That is harder to sell due to the inconsistencies of the past.

In previous years, there hasn’t been a clear alternative. Bobby Decordova-Reid has a good record, but it is not a large sample, nor at the top level. Tom Cairney has a record of two out of three but has never looked confident, and taking as few as three during seven years at the club suggests he isn’t. But after Andreas Pereira confidently dispatched his spot-kick against Manchester City, and with Willian, who took on responsibilities from 12-yards at Chelsea with a good level of success, scoring seven from eight, the squad now has options to explore.

Despite the disappointment of another late defeat, the fourth of the five teams above The Cottagers to achieve victory in such a manner, it is very difficult to feel to aggrieved at the current state of play. Silva and his team are defying expectations, and a sobering moment is probably needed from time to time. A long away trip, less than three days removed from a momentous win over local rivals was always a tough ask. That Fulham pushed an in- form team with the divisions meanest defence so close, and had opportunities to win, is testament to how far this side have come.

Indeed it could have been very different if those in charge of VAR had taken closer look at Dan Burn’s intervention as Andreas bared down on goal. The Magpie’s centre-back appeared to pull the Brazilian’s arm, causing the attacker to fall before he could take his one-on-one opportunity. VAR decided it was Kieran Trippier’s foul on Decordova-Reid that warranted penalising, but had it been Burn’s, the hosts would surely have been reduced to ten men. A point Silva was at pains to point out post-match. We are not bemoaning a 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park with the same level of distress as the last time it occurred, following an erroneous red card for our own centre-back at the time, such is our lofty position in the table, but it still stings.

Despite the annoyance, it’s a positive that is the overriding emotion after a result like this. Sitting sixth and on 31 points at halfway means Fulham are still looking up rather than down, and if we were only going to win one game this week, it’s obvious which was preferable.