A Match Too Far at Fulham
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 19 Jan 2020 13:08:00
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It looked like one match too many as Boro fell to a 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage on Friday. We struggled to compete with the speed, cut and thrust of a Fulham side that looked a step above for much of the game. After that hard fought 2-1 defeat at Tottenham it was a disappointing end to the week, especially for the big away crowd but maybe the three game week had caught up with the players.

The feeling amongst Fulham fans the day after was that Boro were lucky to have got away with a 1-0 loss and certainly the way they started like an express train we could have found ourselves well down and out before the break. But that train did eventually run out of some of its steam allowing Boro to creep back into the game. But we failed to really open up the Londoners, apart from Hayden Coulson's looping deflected cross hitting the bar. And Scott Parker's side hit back in the second half to put us right back on the ropes.

Boro did have a late surge of corners and pressure towards the very end of the 90. A Paddy McNair cross threatened to curl into the top corner but we couldn't do anything to disrupt the team with the second best home record in the league. Even without their goalscorer and talisman, Mitovic, Fulham looked too good for Boro.

Now we have only a few days to regroup before playing Birmingham City at home. Then will come a well needed 11 days without a game. But can we summon up the energies and urgency again against the Blue Brummies at the Riverside? That will be the big question mark looming after this latest set back and defeat in London.

Fulham ripped into Boro from the off at Craven Cottage. The lovely old ground by the Thames is three-sided this season as they prepare the foundations for a brand new stand that will actually cantilever out over the river. But there seemed no let up in noise and atmosphere, particularly from the away fans. For the second time (well) inside a week there was a really big following down in London. The rail networks must have taken a king's ransom from Teessiders over the past few days.

Boro fans were resistant to the stewards attempts to get us to sit down in the lower tiers. The disabled deck is midway up the stand and they were having problems seeing. Like so many others I don't often like sitting at away matches. In a rail-seat future such as we glimpsed at Spurs, the front seats could be designated as strictly for sitting. Hopefully in future supporters will show understanding for the plight of their own disabled supporters with blocked views.

Woodgate shuffled his pack again. Coulson came back in (for Johnson) and Tav also started, the ever hard working Tav. Roberts came back in to offer zip. Fletcher was rested for Gestede. We missed Fletcher's goal threat but he did look tired towards the end of the Spurs game, not surprising when you think of the demands placed on him ever since Britt's injury (from the Pratley foul) against Charlton.

We were hoping the home team would miss Mitrovic but they were at us from the off. Our old nemesis from his Brighton days, winger Knockaert was really at it hammer and tongs against Coulson. He would finally get on the end of a cross that evaded Pears to tuck away what would end up being the decisive goal.

For a time after that goal we were hanging on in there as The Cottagers probed deep into our defences searching for a knock out blow. They would eventually have the ball in the net again after the break but the linesman's flag going up gave us the biggest cheer of the evening.

For all our toil we couldn't quite fire on all cylinders. There were only glimpses of the flowing moves that have been a trademark of recent games. Djed Spence looked jaded and was caught out on occasion. There were some rapier runs from the restored Roberts but little end result. Tav also busied himself taking on opponents and while it was understandable taking him off, no one else could make those runs from deep or summon as much energy for closing down so many opponents.

In the end, although the away fans roared on their troops we couldn't get the ball over the line for a big finish. At the final whistle we would have to agree that we were second best on the night. We must now regroup and summon up the effort and endeavour to beat Birmingham on Tuesday night.

Fulham 1-0 Middlesbrough

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