Jack and Loz Not at the Cottage - Blog 180

Date: 18 May 2021

Opposition: Manchester United

Score: 1-1

Fulham goal scorer: Joe Bryan

MOTM: for some unfathomable reason, this was Joe’s first start for many months. In typical fashion, he grabbed the opportunity and played a stunning second half culminating in a much-deserved first Premier League goal

Dinner: Loz - veggie curry; Jack - lentil Cottage pie

If there’s a ground you don’t want to visit on the back of a long losing streak, with players losing interest and a manager losing the plot, to play in front of fans for the first time in months, it’s Old Trafford. Even before one of the most apparently random Fulham line-ups ever was announced everyone was sure we were going to lose, and lose badly.

But, of course, we are Fulham and you have to expect the unexpected. And it turned out the players hadn’t lost interest and the manager hasn’t lost the plot after all. And by the end of the match we all felt disappointed that we didn’t win it.

First, that apparently random line-up. Scott justified his rag-tag team by saying he was playing people who would mainly be at the Club next season. But this makes no sense. Areola won’t be, Lookman won’t be. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely Lemina will be either. We like Tim Ream a lot and are glad he got to Captain the side one last time (and did so with aplomb) but surely he will be gracing the MLS next year not the Championship. Kenny Tete, who hopefully will be gracing the Championship started on the bench while Frank, who will want to be anywhere but in the Championship, played for 90 minutes.

Mitro, meanwhile, has been locked in a cupboard somewhere.

The game was an odd one - starting badly but getting better and better as it went on. The Man U players turned up expecting a relaxed evening of a few easy goals, a textbook clean sheet and 3 effortless points. But it didn’t go like that at all.

In the first half, while Man U looked threatening we kept expecting them to go up a gear and wreak havoc but they never did. The early sub of Andersen for the unfortunately injured Reed helped but so did Fulham’s attacking intent. In another excellent outing, Fabio popped up all over the pitch fighting for the ball with all his teenage energy and enthusiasm. Lemina was throwing himself into challenges with a kind of fatalistic desperation - don’t lose or die trying - while Tim Ream showed Andersen a thing or two about captaining Fulham and leading the defence. Andersen was much improved from his recent efforts and obviously appreciated the lesson.

Which brings us to Man U’s “goal”. Suffice to say, what is the point of having VAR if it doesn’t actually work? Especially as the officials later spent ages dissecting our goal from all angles. Imagine if these had been the two “dropped” points which relegated us!

The second half was the most exciting we have seen for many games. The Fulham players were giving the ball away too much but this was a result of a refreshingly direct approach - no pointless passes and overplaying - just an all-out aggressive attack. Lookman and Fab came close and we had Man U on the ropes. Then, for the second game in a row, Bobby Decordova-Reid produced a world class cross and this time it was his old friend Joe Bryan who was on the end of it, heading it expertly into the goal.

In the closing minutes, Fulham piled on the pressure to try to become de jure as well as de facto winners. It wasn’t to be but we didn’t concede either thanks in part to the introduction of Tete for the tiring Lookman.

We will take the point, which we weren’t expecting but this surprisingly enjoyable match raises so many questions: if the team can play like that against Man U, what were they doing in recent games? Why hasn’t Joe Bryan played far more often? Whilst we wouldn’t have wanted Tim Ream to play every week he clearly has far more to offer than anyone realised. And does Scott Parker actually know what he’s doing and is he committed to the Club after all?

Fulham are in a state of flux. We don’t know who is staying/going/arriving/departing/being loaned/coming back from loan at any level and we won’t know for some weeks to come. Frankly, though, the overriding feeling is that as long as we can watch Fabio and Joe play every week in the Championship things will probably be ok.

Random musings:-

- it was good to finally have a crowd back and this was the loudest we have heard Man U fans at a Fulham match. We went to Old Trafford a few years ago and the fans barely got above a whisper. On the tram on the way back into town the friendly locals admitted that they don’t really get excited about a match unless it’s against Liverpool

- no doubt that explains why, 15 months after they last watched football live, many left early

- there were plenty of Norwich/Glazers Out scarves in the stand reminding us that no punishments have been meted out for the ‘super’ league debacle. Presumably that will all be quietly swept under the pitch

- a lot of Man U fans haven’t worked out how to wear a mask properly

- we admire Marcus Rashford for his activism and philanthropy but he’s not so saintly on the pitch - Andersen’s reaction to the “foul” was hilarious

- Tosin had an unusually assured and competent game - a result of playing next to Ream no doubt

- going back to losing the plot etc, the Fab/RLC swap was literally the worst substitution in the world. We will accept it on the basis that Fab will hopefully play 90 minutes at the weekend but, as usual, RLC contributed nothing and we can’t wait to see the back of him.

This frustrating and disheartening season is nearly over. We want to put it behind us and move on but Monday night’s result is a timely reminder both of what might have been and of what will one day be. Fulham weren’t just making up the numbers in the Premier League this season - we’ve played some good football and taken points at unexpected places.

And one day we’ll be back. And next time, we’ll stay.