Fulham Focus – Defensive frailties cost Cottagers yet again

In all bar one of Fulham’s four away matches in the Premier League so far this season, Martin Jol’s men have arguably controlled proceedings and more than deserved to come away with the three points, only for an inability to keep clean sheets to cost the Cottagers dearly.

From the defeat at Old Trafford to the victory at Wigan, Fulham have at times been well on top and yet when under pressure, have shown a tendency to leak goals alarmingly late in matches.

Jol therefore will be infuriated at his side’s 2-2 draw at Southampton over the weekend, a clash that will surely be viewed as two points lost having taken the lead in the 88th minute through Kieran Richardson, only for a last minute Saints equaliser to deny the Cottagers.

However, following Fulham’s first half performance, Jol’s men were arguably lucky to come away with anything after a listless performance that could have have seen them down by several goals but for some profligate Southampton finishing.

The Cottagers are clearly missing Dimitar Berbatov’s class up front and the sooner they are able to call upon the talismanic Bulgarian the better. Indeed, the ache for Berbatov seemed to grow louder with every passing minute as Bryan Ruiz flitted around the edges of the game while Hugo Rodallega lacked the sureness of touch that the central striker in Fulham’s system needs to ally to his impressive work rate.

However, it must not be forgotten that Fulham’s attack did eventually click into gear and but for a late defensive collapse would have come away with victory. Of course, the attacking philosophy Jol preaches does not exactly lend itself to defensive solidity. Indeed, with the propensity of Fulham’s midfielders to fly forward, the likes of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, though dependable defenders, can often find themselves exposed against quick counter-attacks.

Despite that, the Fulham supremo will be concerned about his side’s inability to see games out. Late defensive errors have now seen Fulham almost snatch a draw from the jaws of victory at Wigan, fall to a home defeat to Manchester City and on Sunday, see victory slip away at St Mary’s. Without those slip-ups, the Cottagers would currently be sitting in seventh position, ahead of London rivals Arsenal.

So how does Jol find a solution? It is possibly too simplistic to say that with time running down Fulham should be a little wiser and not continue to fly forward in search of more goals. However, perhaps the manager would be wise to have a few words with skipper Hangeland, who has for so long a totem-like presence of solidity and stability at Craven Cottage, but has seen his standards slip somewhat so far this season.

Although fans and staff will be disappointed by the late concession, upcoming clashes with Aston Villa and Reading ensure there could be more points on the board after the international break in West London.

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