Ask the majority of Fulham fans heading into their side’s fixture with Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and almost all would have said the same thing: that this would be the weekend their London rivals would get their first Premier League victory of the season.
This had nothing to do with QPR’s ability as a team, nor with Harry Redknapp’s managerial prowess. Rather, it was simply that Fulham’s form of late hardly lent itself towards victory, let alone away from home where, despite early signs that Martin Jol was beginning to solve the Cottagers’ perennial away day blues, recent fixtures have shown them to be slipping back into their prior bad habits.
So it proved as, put simply, Fulham did not turn up at Loftus Road. For a side so often lauded for their attacking ability and carefree attitude going forward this season, the visitors were as listless as they have ever been under Jol and deserved absolutely nothing from the clash.
The bottom line was that QPR did not even have to work particularly hard for their victory. Yes, it came courtesy of a moment of magic from Adel Taarabt but quite frankly, the fact it came to that was more due to the home side’s failure to take advantage of the opportunities and space afforded to them rather than any resolute Fulham defending.
In midfield there was no invention whatsoever as Kieran Richardson produced yet another lifeless display that will fail to convince doubting Fulham fans of his worth at the club, while the midfield duo of Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird, though willing, proved to be painfully inadequate when on the ball.
Up front, even Dimitar Berbatov, so often Fulham’s go-to man in recent weeks even when struggling for form as a team, had a quiet day and looked lacking in inspiration, while his partner Hugo Rodallega was again anonymous.
The only positive of the weekend was that the defeat did not affect Fulham’s position in the table, which currently sees them in a comfortable enough 13th place, only four points off the likes of Norwich and Stoke while remaining five points above the drop zone.
However, though a relegation battle is hardly likely to be on the cards, Jol will be putting himself under more pressure than anyone as he tries to turn his side’s season around. He is an ambitious manager, one who almost took Tottenham into the top four in his time at White Hart Lane and while he may not have the same resources at Craven Cottage, Jol will not have arrived in West London content with mid-table finish after mid-table finish.
The signing of Berbatov was supposed to herald a new era at the club and so far, despite all his mercurial brilliance, it has not paid off with results. However, with home games to come against Southampton and Swansea, the opportunity is there to put things right.
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