In the aftermath of Fulham’s 1-0 play-off semi-final first leg defeat away to Derby County, a feeling of disgust and dismay fell over the Cottagers fanbase.
Despite dominating shots, possession, passes, and corners, Fulham failed to find a cutting edge and continued their shocking winless play-off run.
However, Fulham supporters should avoid the tendency to panic heading into Monday’s second leg at Craven Cottage, as the Whites were the better side on Friday night and possess a superb home unbeaten run.
Against Derby, the Whites were at times far too pedestrian, playing football at a walking pace and failing to break down the well-drilled Rams defence.
In addition, a frustrating number of attacks seemed forced down the middle, where Aleksandar Mitrovic was heavily watched all night long and was scarcely given an inch of space.
Nonetheless, Fulham’s second-half performance offers lots of encouragement for the Cottagers faithful. The away side clearly came out of the changing rooms with a point to prove and began the second half brightly.
Kevin McDonald rattled the crossbar with a fierce long-range effort, Floyd Ayite nearly converted a first-time volley, and Fulham essentially camped outside Derby’s penalty area for three-quarters of an hour.
But it is clear that a shift in mentality and incisiveness is required for Monday night’s encounter at Craven Cottage.
Being the better side is useless when one cannot convert a scoring chance; Fulham must look to be more direct at home and take shots on goal whenever possible.
Another area for encouragement is the fortress that Slavisa Jokanovic’s side has built at Craven Cottage.
The Whites are unbeaten at home since a 2-0 Halloween defeat to Bristol City, and have beaten the likes of Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, and Leeds United during that spell.
Jokanovic summed it up best in his post-match comments on the club’s official website, urging his team to show belief and fighting spirit.
“We must not let ourselves get too frustrated and remain confident as we showed quality and had a good mentality,” Jokanovic said. “What we want to do is now change this story and win the game on Monday night and fight for the opportunity to play at Wembley.”
Fulham must not despair after their Pride Park loss; there is still everything to play for on Monday night and their Wembley dream is still within reach.