So here it is: the final away game of this latest foray into Premier League football. Would it result in our second win on the road or would it be another humbling against one of our fellow, and far more successful, promotees?
The pre-game buzz had all surrounded long-time captain and brand-new dad, Tom Cairney’s, shiny new five-year, non-relegation wage drop, contract. Would this end of season bonus gee the Whites up and power us to our fourth win in a row, something that hadn’t happened in the top flight since 1960 when a young up-and-comer by the name of George Cohen was gracing the right-back slot. Today the slot was filled by another SW6 starlet, although by the looks of things he won’t be hanging around for his whole career like our statue-deserving legend.
When the team was announced it appeared that the only change to last weekend’s line-up was Cyrus Christie replacing the concussed Denis Odoi in the full-back position, although when the team took to the pitch it appeared that Ryan Sessegnon was taking up the right wing-back slot, with Cyrus taking his place next to Le Marchand (being careful not to get too close to his outstretched legs). Saturday morning had seen The Telegraph publish an interview with Scott Parker that stated he was the right fit for the Fulham job and if indeed this caretaker role was an interview, then starting Sess at right-back and Cyrus at centre-back was the footballing equivalent of calling the interviewer “Mum”: not ideal, but hopefully by the end it had gone well enough that you may have thought you’d just imagined it.
To the action. The game started off at a decent pace, with Joe Bryan continuing his recent good form by bursting in from the left and getting the first shot on target. Unfortunately, it was straight down the throat of the Wolves No.1(1). Soon after, Diogo Jota weaved through the Whites’ defence, before confusing Tim Ream who then clipped the player’s ankle, which was thankfully missed by referee, Jon Moss. Moments later, Jota found himself in the box before throwing himself to the ground with such acrobatic finesse that the on-looking masked Mexican wrestler, Sin Cara, must’ve considered inviting him to tag team with him. Instead, he got a booking. Leave diving around to the WWE folk.
In the eleventh minute, only a fine stop from PL Player of The Month-nominated Sergio Rico stopped the home side taking the lead following some frankly terrible passing from Cyrus and Sess that led to one of the Wolves players (probably a Portuguese one) having a gilt-edged chance that should really have ended up in the net but for the Spaniard’s rock-like fingertips.
The half continued in a similar vein: the passing was sloppy, needless/mis-timed challenges were plentiful and whilst Fulham did push forward, there were few clear-cut chances and the play was often disjointed. Thankfully the half time whistle blew before the scoreboard was troubled and Scotty could get the players in to work his magic.
The last three games have been great from a confidence point of view, but they were against teams that didn’t have anything to play for – ok Cardiff had everything to play for but they’re just not very good. Wolves were competing for a well-deserved 7th place finish and potential Europa League football next season (and who wouldn’t want that pleasure?!). It certainly showed and despite a bright start to the second half, it was soon Dr Santo’s (he’d received an honorary doctorate prior to the game from The University of Wolverhampton – apparently that’s an actual university) men that took hold of the game. Just after the hour mark, Mitro had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock but he blazed over from the end of the area after some neat passing from both Cyrus and Sess.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Rico conceded his first goal in six hours (give or take) as Dendoncker was left unmarked to sweep home Doherty’s low cross from just outside the six-yard box. Fair to say it had been coming but the quality of tracking back and defending was incredibly disappointing.
On 82 minutes, Parker finally made his first change of the game, bringing on Ayité for the largely disappointing Sess. Without wanting to criticise a player who’s been an absolute pleasure to behold over the last 3 years, and will hopefully go on to be a star for both club and country in the years to come, it’s clear to see this has been a draining season for him and you’d have to say he’s either incredibly low on confidence or has completely checked-out – or both. I would love for him to stay with us next season, be it as our player or loaned back, but I imagine his agent has been busy putting any hope of that to rest once the transfer window bursts open.
But from one future star to (potentially) another. With a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, Harvey Elliott and his man-bun/boy-bap hair cut made their entrance, becoming the youngest player in Premier League history beating former White Matthew Briggs’ record…hopefully for Harvey and his questionable do, his career blossoms slightly more than Briggs‘, who now finds himself battling for promotion to the Bostik Premier League at the tender age of 28. Strange one that for a player that seemed to have some real potential.
The game had already petered out by that point, so much so that Santo decided to change his keeper thirty seconds from the end just to try and spice things up a bit. I assume.
The final whistle went meaning that out of a possible 57, the Whites managed a less-than-outstanding 5 points. Better luck next year, eh! And perhaps those fans who’ve managed to make the multiple fruitless trips will continue to sing “Scotty Parkers’ Black & White Army”… let’s just see how the actual interview goes.