Club Focus – Fulham – Referee’s decision reversal fails to hide Cottagers’ attacking failings

All the talk in the wake of Tottenham’s rare Craven Cottage win on Saturday was about referee Mike Dean’s perplexing decision to award a Tom Huddlestone strike after initially ruling the goal out for offside. The age-old ‘interfering with play’ debate will once again be a talking point, but had Fulham – and particularly Diomansy Kamara – taken more of their chances, then no excuses would be required. The unbeaten tag has disappeared, leaving the statistics instead to read one win from eight. There is, as yet, no need to panic or for Mark Hughes to make drastic changes, but the lack of a quality finisher was evident at the weekend.

Kamara may have opened to scoring after having the ball put on a plate by Clint Dempsey, but he missed several other gilt-edged chances that, if taken, could well have sent the points in the other direction. The loss of Bobby Zamora is starting to affect the team in a similar way as first feared, despite the initial show of determination the players demonstrated. Kamara’s finishing was evocative of Zamora’s during his first season at Craven Cottage, when he mustered just two league goals. However, even then, Zamora’s play as a target man was first rate, and the same cannot be said for the Senegalese. Kamara spent the majority of the 90 minutes equally as unaware of the laws of offside as the officials were, standing as he did yards ahead of the Spurs backline, effectively eliminating himself from the contest. Throughout his time at the club, he has played his best games as an impact substitute, and Hughes is more thank likely to be the next in line to view his striker as exactly that

With Eddie Johnson marginally effective off the bench as well, but also having proven nothing when starting, the lack of replacement for Zamora, in both goalscoring ability and hold-up play is holding Hughes’ side back from truly showing their potential. Moussa Dembele was evidently not fit enough to be back in the starting line-up, and Danny Murphy picked up a knock in the first half, so there was little, too, in the way of creativity. While Dempsey continued to show bags of industry, there is not enough consistency around him to be causing damage to the opposition. In that respect, Hughes could do a lot worse than give Zoltan Gera a run alongside Dempsey.

One thing the Hungarian at least has over Johnson and Kamara is he is not a shrinking violet. Instead of running aimlessly and standing offside like the Senegalese or spending half the game on the turf like the American, Gera will offer 90 minutes of effort and intelligent forward play. Unfortunately, such is Gera’s limited time on the field this season, Hughes does not see where one of the revelations of last season fits in. For now, his being deployed in the hole behind a forward is arguably the manager’s best option of all.

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