Twice last season newly promoted Hull City managed an unlikely three points against a bewildered Fulham. To prevent that this time, the Whites needed to target a weak Tigers defence from all angles and it would inevitably cave in. Roy Hodgson’s men did exactly that. Registering 15 shots, with eight on target, compared to Hull’s four, with none on target, certainly justified the 2-0 scoreline. In fact, if anything, the result was flattering for the visitors. Hodgson’s players put the recent bad form firmly behind them, and have now set a precedent for how to perform at Craven Cottage.
With such a strong team performance from front to back, who stood out more than the others? As suggested he should in the October 16 Club Focus, it was Bobby Zamora. The big man put an early miss to the back of his mind to play a vital holding-up role in Fulham’s front line. Further to his strength and determination, he headed in the opener, getting the breakthrough in what was a dominant, yet unconvincing first half. His goal just before the interval freed up his teammates, allowing them to pile the pressure on Hull in search for the cushion of a two-goal lead. The second came just 18 minutes after the restart, and the much-maligned target man had his say in that goal too, setting up Diomansy Kamara who was never likely to miss. Even the return of former Fulham favourite Jimmy Bullard could not ease the pressure on his new team, and the visitors never looked like halting the home side’s dominance.
Zamora has faced heavy criticism for his lack of goal-scoring prowess for much of his Cottage tenure, but last night’s performance showed him at his Brighton-best. Strong, workmanlike and – perhaps surprisingly – clinical, an in-form Zamora is a very difficult prospect to play against. There has never been doubts of his abilities, all Fulham fans – and, indeed West Ham and Tottenham beforehand – have seen him at his best, but it is his inconsistency which has meant he has never managed to develop his clear potential. Of course, if any manager can get the best out of an unconfident player it is Roy Hodgson, who has transformed Danny Murphy and Aaron Hughes into the performers they now are, almost week-in, week-out. Although showing up his former teammate should give Zamora the impetus he needs to transform his Cottage career, this writer has seen enough times before it could well be months until the Fulham faithful are treated to another show of Zamora at his best.
Before the Hull victory, goals from Fulham strikers were as rare as beach balls providing tap-ins, but one match provided twice the goals that the goal-getters have managed all season – two. The obvious omission was Andy Johnson, but was that telling? Known for his pace and his finishing, Johnson was replaced in the starting XI last night by Kamara, and the Senegalese certainly made Hodgson wonder what his best strike-pairing actually is, as he showed more pace and finishing skills than his teammate has all season. Kamara has taken his role as substitute very professionally and, more importantly, has impressed every chance he has had. He now fully deserves a run in the team, which would also give Johnson a wake-up call. More than likely, however, Hodgson will give Johnson more time and will revert to his preferred striking line-up for the next league game – a similar story to how the recently impressive Zoltan Gera found himself sitting last night out as Damien Duff returned.
The Irishman, if not for Zamora, would have been head-and-shoulders man of the match. Starting on the left, he soon switched flanks with Clint Dempsey and caused his countryman Kevin Kilbane no end of trouble. Dempsey, unfortunately, remained anonymous. The fact Hodgson now has players on the bench who can change games and push the regulars for their starting berths is mouth-watering for Whites fans, who have had to endure a lack of depth since being in the Premier League. Kamara has set the benchmark for Johnson to follow, Gera is chomping at the bit should Dempsey continue to look tired and, replacing the injured Dickson Etuhu in midfield this time, Chris Baird continues to impress and is certainly good enough to cover in defence or midfield.
Expect some changes, but far from a second-string side against Roma on Thursday, as Hodgson’s squad continues to compete. Hopefully no miracles will be needed to keep Fulham up this season, but is Bullard, another injury and two seasons on, up for that challenge again with his new club?
Fulham Club Focus
Long season ahead – July 29
Confirmed: Zamora’s foot does fit in his mouth – August 5
Fulham needs Brede to survive – August 12
How do Fulham push on? – August 18
Roy Hodgson raids the Post Office queue – August 21
Lethargic Cottagers slump to derby defeat – August 25
Makeshift Cottagers shuffle into Europa League – August 28
No ammunition from midfield as Cottagers continue to fire blanks – September 1
Window shut firmly for Fulham – September 4
Hodgson must adapt to rid closet of skeletons – September 8
Forget August, the season starts now – September 11
Normal service resumed? – September 15
Second string given chance to shine – September 18
No-one fearful of Fulham, so time for Plan B – September 22
Rotatation, rotation and more rotation – September 25 Ten points for effort, but no points where it matters – September 29 Cottagers should follow Baird’s example – October 2 Whites Kagiso close to unlikely win – October 6 Whites hope for unhappy return for Bullard – October 16 Rampant Whites ruin Bullard’s comeback – October 20