Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 258

Date: 27th September 2023

Competition: Carabao Cup 3rd round

Opposition: Norwich City

Score: 2-1

Fulham goal scorers: Carlos Vinicius, Alex Iwobi

Weather: damp

Atmosphere: sporadically good

MOTM: straight in at number 1 this week is Fodé Ballo-Torré who’s been something of an international (literally) man of mystery since his surprise arrival on deadline day. In turns out that Fodé is a pacy, attack-minded full back with a neat touch and a deft pass. We enjoyed watching him race down the wing, often carrying the ball with him and it’s an added bonus that he’s going to make Antonee Robinson work very hard indeed to keep his starting place

Pre-match: the Blue Boat

Most Fulham fans on their way to Craven Cottage on Wednesday night weren’t predicting the score or even predicting whether our team might win (in an unfulhamish turn of events most people assumed we probably would). They were trying to predict who would play up front.

Based on the fact that he needs a goal and a run in the team, we thought Raùl would be starting. Because we like Vini a lot as well, we weren’t disappointed to be wrong but we were a bit mystified. There aren’t going to be many better chances for a Fulham striker to score than playing against a Championship defence.

It didn’t take long for Vini to deliver but his tap-in didn’t justify his selection. The goal was made with Willian’s skill and Iwobi’s industry; Vini did the easy bit.

Still, it was good to get a goal and the small but enthusiastic crowd settled down to wait for the next one.

It was a long wait.

This was an entertaining cup tie. Fulham had most of the ball, most of the skill and most of the pace but the team looked like 11 good footballers who’d never played together before, which is exactly what they were. Norwich fielded a young but determined side who defended doggedly and made the most of their few attacking opportunities.

Along with FBT, our other stand-out player was Iwobi who made the step up from explosive sub to assured starter impressively but not unexpectedly. Willian continued the quest to get back to his best that he began against Palace while Harry Wilson looked sharp and eager. Other than a few casually world class tackles João had a quiet game and TC wasn’t as influential as he should have been.

While the passing was precise and the possession expansive, Fulham had a tendency to over play the ball and to try to be too clever. Even the second goal, as good as it was, hardly took a direct route. The team never got out of third gear and became complacent at 2-0. Norwich deserved their consolation and made the last 10 minutes nervy - not just for fans but also for Marco who had been about to bring on Luke Harris and Tyrese Francois then changed his mind and brought on the ever reliable Bobby Decordova-Reid instead.

The match deepened the striker debate rather than deciding it. After he tapped in, Vini tapped out and contributed little else other than contriving to waste a good chance near the end. Muniz - who has suddenly grown from team pet into team panthera - looked good in his cameo and had a header well saved by the Norwich goalie.

Whilst, as we all expected, Fulham never really looked in danger of losing the game, we didn’t win in style. Norwich made us work hard to beat them but, more than that, we made winning hard work for ourselves.

Random musings:-

- It was nice to watch our favourite first teamers warm up for a change

- We don’t often say this these days but the ref had a pretty good game

- In a week when controversial ticket prices have taken over the Fulham agenda we have to say that 2 goals, a few João tackles, and Calvin Bassey being on the pitch was well worth £20

- We weren’t the only people impressed with Norwich’s number 20 judging by the applause and thumbs up he got from the front of the Hammy End when he was subbed off. Apparently he’s known as, “the unpronounceable pole.”

- Willian’s corner deliveries were all excellent until he consulted Andreas about one. Andreas said, “faça o curto” and that one was wasted

- You think Issa Diop can marshall a defence well. And then Tim Ream comes on.

With Ipswich waiting in the 4th round we are well and truly on a cup run. Next week in the league we face the latest battle in our long and bitter rivalry with the other club in Fulham. These should be exciting times but off-pitch events are distracting and the football isn’t filling us with confidence.

We’re unbeaten in 3, but convincing in none.