It’s a definite blessing that Forest are back in action so quickly after Saturday and even more so that it’s another huge game. Whilst it was obviously very frustrating how Derby day panned out; it’s more than comforting to think we don’t just have to rely on that game as a highlight of our season. We’ve come an awful long way under Sabri and when was the last time we were at the top end of the league with a number of massive games left? Im sure it would have to be the Billy Davies Mark 1 era.
Sabri’s pre-match rallying call to the players was absolutely spot on and it fills me with huge hope that his approach is exactly what this relatively young bunch of lads needs to hear. If we can maintain the level of performance in the remaining five games, I’ll be astounded if we don’t finish in a play off position.
That said, Fulham are going to provide another tough test at The City Ground and possibly the biggest since Leeds back in February (in terms of league standings). On their day, Fulham are a top quality side and it’ll be interesting to see if Sabri gives any special attention to their players as he did against Derby at the weekend.
He certainly paid attention to Aleksander Mitrovic back in August at Craven Cottage with Ben Watson being deployed as an extra minder to prevent him from linking Fulham’s play up from the top. In his absence, it almost makes Fulham a more unpredictable and dangerous animal. They certainly have the players to hurt Forest and so fingers crossed we can put them off their rhythm and pose a threat at the other end.
Their were plenty of positives from Saturday and we looked refreshed all over the pitch. Without a nervous crowd in at The City Ground; I think this arguably puts us in a stronger chance of winning a game. Nuno Da Costa put in a strong performance at the weekend and so we’ll have to see if he keeps Sammi Ameobi on the bench. Ryan Yates is playing without detractors in attendance and this seems to be doing wonders for his confidence; but once more, the manager has the option of bringing Tiago Silva back into the fold as match winner from the last home win.
There are plenty of options for Forest and I’m sure one or two will be itching to make up for Saturday. I’ve everything crossed that we will get to see this team come of age. It’s not very often that us Forest fans get to be genuinely excited about promotion and so I’m determined to make the most of it; even if it is off the sofa…
Tom Greatex from the Fulham Supporters Trust gave me some insight into Fulham’s current form, progress over the season and what might we expect from this evening’s game.
How have you found the restart behind closed doors as a purist and how would you summarise Fulham’s opening games?
While in some respects it has been a relief to have football back, at least for something to watch on tv during hours and hours at home, it doesn’t feel particularly real. Fans not being there is part of it, the underlying issues amongst numerous EFL clubs that might not even exist a few months from now detract from the games and – it’s not just because Fulham have been distinctly unimpressive since the re-start – the interest is only partially what it was in early March.
Fulham have played well in patches since the re-start, took the game to Leeds after going a goal down, contained Brentford for an hour – but nowhere consistent enough to give the feeling we are in with a realistic prospect of going back up to the premier league. We managed – just – to beat QPR and Birmingham, two out of form sides who have almost nothing to play for.
Unlike the last two times we got to the playoffs – 2017 and 2018 – there is no feeling of positive momentum, we have probably done enough to be in the top six but not in any sort of impressive way.
In terms of the wider season, how have Fulham faired under Scot Parker? From an outsider perspective; it feels like he’s done a good job considering he’s still learning his trade.
Scott Parker has done reasonably well on the face of it – we have been in the top six for almost all of the season, and in third for a considerable period. But with the squad at his disposal there is a strong feeling that we should have done better so far – even if the results have looked good, often the performances have been less than impressive. We have laboured to wins in games we should have won comfortably, lots of defensive lapses, lots of possession but sideways passing and a lack of attacking endeavour despite the players we have. So as harsh as it may seem to an outside observer, Parker has failed to impress many fans this season.
What should Forest fans expect from this Fulham side on Tuesday in terms of style of play and strengths? Which players would you single out for Forest to keep an eye on in the absence of Mitrovic?
Forest should expect fulham to try to keep the ball, a congested midfield, only a few chances created and a slow, deliberative approach. Attritional rather than exciting. Harrison Reed has been the main bright spot since the re-start playing in front of the defence, and Rodak in goal has helped give us more solidity since he came into the side since we played at Craven Cottage. Without Mitrovic and if Kamara is still out; there won’t be an out and out striker – Bobby Decordova-Reid has been unlucky with chances at crucial times since the re-start and his luck has to change at some point.
What have been your biggest problems this season?
Our two main weaknesses have been lapses into comedy defending that happen all too often and at crucial times in games, and a lack of pace and invention up front for much of the game. While there have been some spectacular moments of skill from our wingers and midfielders, they have been relatively rare while the patient, passing, one paced possession football is less enthralling when many of those passes are sideways or backwards.
Fulham seemed to have had an indifferent start post lockdown – are automatics out of reach?
Automatic promotion is out of reach and has been since we lost to Leeds – we have probably done enough to finish 5th but a continued run of poor performances in the next three fixtures – Forest, Cardiff and West Brom – could mean making the playoffs is a close run thing.
If there was any Forest players you could have at Fulham – past and present – who would it be and why?
Forest have had some great players over the years – I’d take a Des Walker in his pomp to shapen up and lead our error prone defence – and from the present side, always been impressed by joe lolley. We’ve got a lot of midfielders but he’s one who has impressed me whenever I’ve seen him.
What are your hopes and predictions for Tuesdays game?
Obviously I hope Fulham make it three wins on the bounce with Brentford losing to Charlton and stoke thrashing Leeds – but my expectations are that we’ll dominate possession but end up losing 2-0.
But having been promoted in recent years, and been reminded that the journey is better than the destination, I could cope with not going up n this most bizarre of seasons.
Many thanks to Tom for his insightful thoughts; it’s very much appreciated at Munich and Madrid.