Class told in the end. Fulham couldn’t get the ball back from Everton and this meant Everton were able to keep us at arm’s length for long stretches. This rather took away from the home team’s ability to build momentum, and this alone probably cost us the match.
The team were so keyed up that less skilled teams than Everton could have been blown away, but it simply wasn’t to be. Fulham can be proud of their efforts, although the game did rather resemble a lower league v Premiership battle in which the former know it’s their biggest game yet and the latter have to be sharp accordingly.
This is what we’ve wanted for a while: the quality isn’t there (no, we made sure of that by shipping out the flair players) but the effort was. Now, effort alone is no use to anyone but in the hands of good players it’s the stuff revivals are made of. Witness Lewis Holtby’s performance for the ages, a terrific wholehearted scrap from a player I’d desperately love Fulham to sign.
Magath continued to push the right buttons by selecting 17 year old Moussa Dembele for his first ever start. As with Cauley Woodrow, a teenager from the youth ranks has a lot more leeway from the crowd and can raise hopes through just being there. Dembele did alright: he showed some good touches, missed perhaps the team’s best chance just on half-time (probably the game’s turning point), but can be pleased enough with his first efforts. He might have been taken off a bit earlier but that’s not why we lost.
Ashkan Dejagah scored cutting in again (why did nobody think of this earlier in the season?) and this brought the team back to 1-1 (Everton went ahead from a Stockdale o.g. in which the ball ricocheted off the poor ‘keeper’s shins), and suddenly there was great hope that maybe Fulham had something after all.
Trouble was we got very open and Everton ultimately profited from this, but what can you do? They’re a good team and we’re trying to become one. Against weaker opponents that performance would probably, almost certainly, have produced a win. It had a bit of everything and the team need to just go about replicating it in the next few matches.
Incidentally, it’s taken a while but Magath might be getting somewhere. The below is a four game rolling average chart of Fulham’s shots and shots allowed this season. The rolling average just means it takes the last four matches, which gives us smoother lines and guards against outliers (if we just took the actual shots and shots allowed it’d be up and down like a yo-yo). So here’s Martin Jol’s famously futile run. Meulensteen steadied the ship pretty well. Hull was just an outlier, otherwise we were very competitive in all games except Arsenal, Southampton, Liverpool and Manchester United, which is no crime considering how we started the season. Magath has seen a slight upwards curve but hasn’t been in charge long enough. I think I read at the time how Fulham were actually lucky under Jol to have as many points as we did (based on underlying indicators) but that Meulensteen was actually pretty unlucky. I can see this, based on the shot numbers.
Anyway, there we go. Basically if you take away the Jol ridiculousness we’re a mid table team. Let’s hope we can play better than that in the run-in. We need to.