Jack and Loz in the Cup - Blog 268

Date: 5th January 2024

Competition: FA Cup 3rd Round

Opposition: Rotherham

Score: 1-0

Goal scorer: Bobby Decordova Reid

Weather: chilly

Atmosphere: unimpressed

MOTM: in a match bereft of highlights, or even entertainment, no one put in a true Man of the Match performance. We’ll leave it to Bobby who scored a goal and Marek who kept a clean sheet to fight it out

Dinner: the Blue Boat

We have to begin this blog with an unusual clarification. This blog entry relates to the FA Cup, not the Carabao. That’s next week. Fulham are still in both, you know.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Fulham regularly beat Championship sides 7-0. There was also a time as long ago as….last month, when Fulham regularly beat Premier League sides 5-0. On Sunday, in a performance for the ages, Fulham beat title contenders Arsenal 2-1.

So beating Rotherham should have been no problem, right?

However, there is another, Fulhamish, way of looking at Friday’s cup tie: Rotherham are rock bottom of the Championship, they haven’t won away since 2022; they had “banana skin” written all over them (literally their goalie’s case). Surviving the match unscathed and edging into the fourth round is achievement enough. Our focus is elsewhere.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

To say Fulham started the game slowly would be an understatement; we’ve seen more intensity in kids’ 5 a-side. Initially we cut them some slack as this was a mix-and-match team missing its usual spine. But not too much slack. Andreas Pereria is a world class footballer, he should have been able to run rings round Rotherham with one foot tied behind his back; Diop and Tosin will probably be our centre back duo for the next three key matches, they should have welcomed the test; Harrison Reed and Sasa Lukic have slipped to second choice, they had something to prove. And Rodrigo Muniz was surely playing for not just his place at Fulham, but for his place in English football.

This was not a match in which Fulham put the Premier in Premier League, or even the former Champions in Championship. This was a disjointed, clunky team effort in which superior skill and extreme possession didn’t translate into a scintillating performance or an overwhelming victory.

Bobby’s goal, which was very well taken, and came from a mistake forced by Harry Wilson was the main highlight of a long and tedious first half. We hoped it might open the floodgates but Rotherham (to their credit) kept them firmly locked and nothing Fulham tried could force them open. In what counts as, in the context of this game, a thrilling passage of play Andreas hit the post (again!) and Harrison shot wide.

At the other end, a Moment of lost concentration from Diop allowed a determined attack from Rotherham to result in a goal. Fortunately this was (rightly) disallowed for being offside and the defence just about heeded the wake-up call but this was a poor half of football.

And things only got worse.

Suffice to say, Rotherham offered very little in the second half and yet we still only won 1-0. Marco shouldn’t have had to bring on Willian, Tom Cairney and Antonee Robinson to beat a struggling Championship team and they didn’t make any difference anyway. Absolutely no one was anywhere near their best, the play was ragged, the effort threadbare. At times, we kept the Rotherham goal under siege with Andreas taking so many corners that he ran out of routines, but other than Tosin forcing a good save from the goalie these led to nothing but frustration.

Ultimately, we did the minimum necessary to achieve the desired outcome although it was hard to describe that performance as efficient. And the match did serve another purpose - there is now no doubt that both Muniz and Vinicius are not up to the Premier League or to the standard Fulham require. Muniz did almost nothing and Vini’s only contribution was missing a chance Willian handed him on a plate.

Rotherham made life hard for us and we probably could have gone up several gears if we’d had to but this was a disappointing match. But perhaps only when you’re a mid table Premier League team who are about the play the semi final of the league cup.

Random musings:-

- Sasa’s haircut makes it looks like he’s about to do national service

- Raúl used to warm up with his head down; now he interacts with the crowd

- Kudos to the Rotherham fans for making the trip on a Friday night and also to their team for a very clean game with no unnecessary rolling around on the floor

- Kudos also to Fulham for getting the match pricing right. The overall attendance was in excess of 15,000 and there were lots of kids in the crowd. It’s almost as if that unhelpful protest worked…

- We watched the match from H5 and although we enjoyed our sojourn we’re looking forward to being back in H7 from where you get a more informed view of goalmouth action.

Looking at the result, anyone who wasn’t at the match will think it was a perfunctory game rather than a painful one. A possible positive is that the Liverpool analysts who will have watched it in all its tedious detail will have been a. Bored witless; and b. Lulled into a false sense of security.

To end back where we began, all this match really meant is that, incredibly, the Cup double is still on.