Connect with us


‘Royals showed they are a force’ – Three things learnt from Fulham 1-1 Reading

Jake Jackman



Fulham and Reading will go into the second leg of their play-off semi-final on level terms as they played out a 1-1 draw on Saturday at Craven Cottage.

It was a high intensity game with both sides implanting a heavy press when out of possession. The two managers, Jaap Stam and Slavisa Jokanovic, are two of the best tactically in the division and that showed on Saturday.

The Cottagers were written about as the favourites to win the play-offs, but it won’t be easy for them to come out on top as this match showed.

Here are three things that we learnt…

Reading showed why they are a force to be reckoned with

The Royals haven’t fully been respected for the great season that they have had, with a number of Championship watchers being confused as to how they finished in third place.

Their league position should have meant that they came into the play-offs as the favourites to gain promotion, but Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday were favoured by the bookies.

Jaap Stam has been very impressive at managing in the big matches, with his preparation being mostly spot on. That was the case on Saturday as he produced a game-plan that nullified Fulham’s threat and restricted them to few chances in front of goal.

Embed from Getty Images

They managed to take the lead through Jordan Obita, who drilled a shot across Marcus Bettinelli to find the bottom corner. It was a deserved lead and it looked like the Royals would earn a precious away win.

Although they conceded an equaliser to Tom Cairney, they never once lost sight of their game-plan and stuck meticulously to the instructions given by Stam. These are a group of players that may not be the most talented in the division, but they are determined and hard-working, as shown by their impressive pressing and off-the-ball contributions.

Paul McShane’s sending off could have been a disaster, but they dealt well with it and saw the game out without conceding another goal. They have a great chance to make it to Wembley.

Tom Cairney is going to be in the top flight next season – with or without Fulham

The best players step up to the big occasion and Tom Cairney certainly did that with a superb display on Saturday. He has consistently been talked about as one of the best, if not the best, player in the Championship and he showed why against Reading.

The 26-year-old is the driving force of this Fulham team and he is the player that his team-mates look toward when things are not going to plan. It was not a surprise that he got the equaliser after some good movement and anticipation allowed him to score a poacher’s goal in the penalty area.

Embed from Getty Images

His passing is his best attribute as he rarely gives the ball away, as shown by his success rate of 88%. This is made even more impressive when you consider that he often has the ball in the attacking half of the pitch.

His ability to carry the ball allow him to excel in the transition phase and he is often the one who turns defence into attack with his powerful runs and eye for a pass. He completed four dribbles during the match at Craven Cottage and caused problems every time he got on the ball.

Fulham will need similar performances from their captain if they are to reach the Premier League. If they fail to do so, they will likely be forced to sell the midfielder as he has done enough to earn a chance in the top flight.

All is still to play for on Tuesday night at the Madejski Stadium

Despite the confidence of some Fulham fans that the tie could be over on Saturday, that wasn’t the case and there will be a new found respect for Reading as a result. The visitors played well to restrict the Cottagers and have shown that they can be a difficult team to break down.

However, the home side didn’t play to their potential and it could be that the pressure of being favourites had an effect on the players. They have been the chasers for the last few months as they tried to break into the top six.

The dynamics have now changed and they appeared to be weighed down by the pressure of being favourites on Saturday. Jokanovic needs to address that and get his team to reach their potential on Tuesday night, or another season in the Championship could await them.

Embed from Getty Images

The play-offs are as much a mental battle as they are a technical one. It can be daunting to play in the high-pressured environment and on this showing alone, it did look like Reading were better suited to that.

They may have attempted fewer shots during the match, but they got the result they needed and their defensive work was the reason for that. On Tuesday, they will be more attack-minded and their impressive home record will give them the confidence to do that.

This tie is on a knife-edge and there is all to play for on Tuesday night.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Fulham FC

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.


Ryan Sessegnon should resist Tottenham interest and remain at boyhood club Fulham

The 19-year-old has been linked with Spurs for some time.



Photo: Getty Images

The more Ryan Sessegnon excels, the more the tabloids run wild.

It seems that every coming week brings a new, outlandish rumour for the 17-year-old’s future destination. The most consistent linked with Sessegnon has been Tottenham Hotspur, but the Fulham youngster has also attracted attention from the likes of Liverpool, both Manchester clubs, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich.

Yet, despite all of the interest from mega-clubs, Ryan Sessegnon should remain at Fulham.

The precocious talent has taken the Championship by storm ever since he made his debut as a 16-year-old in August 2016.

Sessegnon began his career as a left-back but was used to great effect in a more advanced position during the end of the 2016/17 season. Midway through this campaign, he has established himself as a left-winger in Slavisa Jokanovic’s 4-3-3 system.

The teenager has blossomed at Craven Cottage, leading Fulham in scoring with a remarkable 14 goals to date. Even more impressive, he has risen to the occasion in the high-profile matches, notching goals against Wolves, Aston Villa, Derby, and his first professional hat-trick against Sheffield United.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The reason Sessegnon has excelled at Fulham? The immense faith and trust the coaching staff have placed in his abilities. A stunning statistic is that at just 17 years of age, Ryan Sessegnon is the only player in the Fulham squad to start every single match this season.

If he were to leave Fulham, he would lose the crucial aspect that has let him flourish: constant game time. At his age, the most valuable thing a player can have is regular first-team experience.

A move to a so-called bigger club would undoubtedly result in reduced first-team appearances for Sessegnon, which would hamper his progression at a crucial moment in the Englishman’s development.

If Fulham can achieve promotion to the Premier League this season, an event that is looking increasingly likely due to a 15-match unbeaten run, then there is no doubt Sessegnon should remain in SW6.

A guaranteed starting role in the world’s top league will provide the youngster with the perfect chance to fulfill his sky-high potential, an opportunity he would be remiss to pass up.

Continue Reading


Since Aleksandar Mitrovic left, he and Newcastle United have scored the same amount of goals

The Serbian striker is leading Fulham to potential promotion.



Fulham continued their march in the Championship this week with an impressive 3-0 win against Sheffield United at Craven Cottage. The result moves the Cottagers up to fourth in the Championship and into serious contention for promotion to the Premier League. If they do make it back to the top-flight then the signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic will prove to have been crucial.

The Serbian striker scored twice for Fulham against the Blades, continuing his excellent form. Since joining Fulham at the end of January Mitrovic has managed to score an impressive five goals in seven games.

during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on November 25, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It is run of form which will be hard to take for Newcastle United fans. Mitrovic is of course on loan at Fulham from the struggling Premier League side.

Newcastle are currently just two points off the relegation zone in the Premier League. Despite their struggles this season, Rafa Benitez continued to ignore Mitrovic’s claims for a first-team position.

Now that is looking like a poor decision from the Newcastle manager.

Mitrovic’s tally of five goals since he joined Fulham is impressive in itself. Newcastle fans will not like to hear the following statistic though. The Magpies have only managed to score five goals as a team since Mitrovic was allowed to join Fulham in January.

It is hard to see how the Fulham loanee would not have been a helpful member of the Newcastle team if he was given a chance by Benitez before the end of the season.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 09: Aleksandar Mitrovic of Newcastle United arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on December 9, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Mitrovic’s form at Fulham is even more depressing when considering who Newcastle brought in to replace him. Algerian striker Islam Slimani arrived on loan from Leicester City to take his place. However, injury means Newcastle fans are yet to see him play for the club over a month later.

Mitrovic can be a controversial and often inconsistent operator up front. But he is proving what he can do at Craven Cottage and leaving Newcastle slightly red in the face.

There is a chance Newcastle could go down and Fulham win promotion on the back of Mitrovic’s goals. If that proves the case, Mitrovic’s exit will go down as one of the worst transfer decisions in Newcastle’s recent history.

Continue Reading


Has Slaviša Jokanovic assembled the Fulham team of the century at just the right moment?

The Serbian’s side are flying in the Championship and look on course for promotion.



Photo: Getty Images

Times like this rarely come around for clubs like Fulham. Not since 2010’s spellbinding Europa League final run have the Whites conjured up such optimism, goodwill, and footballing joy.

The current 13-match (and counting) unbeaten run is truly historic and has provided the long-suffering Fulham faithful with moments to savor for years to come. And there is a feeling around the club of unfinished business- that this year the team Slaviša Jokanovic has assembled can go one step further than last year and achieve promotion to the Premier League.

Fulham’s weekend win over Derby County marked their tenth win in their last 13 games. 33 points from a possible 39. 32 goals scored and just ten conceded. Five clean sheets in the process. It is no understatement to say that this is the best form Fulham have seen in decades; not since the jubilant campaign of 2000/01 have the Cottagers hit such heights.

The last four matches have been ever the more impressive considering the high-quality opposition Fulham have faced. Following a draw with Bolton in mid-February, the Whites embarked on a run of fixtures against six out of top nine, including all other teams in the top six.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

On paper, it appeared a brutal stretch that would test the club to their limits. Common knowledge was that the Whites would be clinging on to their spot in the play-offs by March.

Yet this Fulham side pays little attention to common knowledge. The supposed heavyweight clubs in the Championship, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both left Craven Cottage empty-handed after being swatted away and held goalless.

Fulham beat  Derby County away for the first time in 16 years, while they held Bristol City to an entertaining 1-1 draw. Four matches against four of the best in the division have resulted in three wins and a draw.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about the magnificent run is that it has not been propelled by a single standout player, but rather by the entire squad.

The return of Marcus Bettinelli has been a revelation, and just like last season, he has brought newfound form to side. Tomas Kalas, and Tim Ream in particular, have been stalwarts at the back. Ryan Fredericks, who recently marked a century of appearances for Fulham, has terrorised opposition defenses all season with his searing pace. Matt Targett has added class and composure, despite his tender age, proving to be an astute loan signing.

And that’s just the back five. The midfield three has truly reestablished itself after early season struggles. Tom Cairney is back to his rampaging best after an injury-hit first half of the year, Stefan Johansen has recaptured his 2016/17 form, and Kevin McDonald is imperious as always in the centre of the park.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Aleksandr Mitrovic truly seems to be the final piece in Slavisa Jokanovic’s jigsaw. The Serbian striker has fired home three goals in his last three matches, providing strong hold-up play, powerful driving runs, and lethal finishing. Finally Fulham have the striker they deserve.

Then there is Ryan Sessegnon. At this point, superlatives can no longer do him justice. There are simply no words for the season he is having. At the age of 17, having played the majority of his matches as a full-back, the Englishman has bagged an outstanding 14 goals.

Sessegnon’s passion and love for the club makes each goal ever the more enjoyable; he is a dream come true for Fulham fans. Suddenly, talk of a spot on the plane to Russia no longer seems so outlandish.

After the next two matches against Sheffield United and Preston, 8th and 9th in the table respectively, the Whites have a run-in of dreams. In their remaining nine fixtures, they play just one team in the top ten. It is not totally radical to dream of an unbeaten finish to the campaign.

But times weren’t always this good on the bank of the Thames. Remarkably, some supporters were calling for Slavisa’s sacking after a rough October that left the Whites languishing in 17th.

Such rash judgements seem foolish now, and credit is due for the level-headed management that trusted in the Serb’s judgement. Come May, that patience could very well be richly rewarded.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.