In the 72nd minute in Fulham’s match against Sheffield Wednesday, the Craven Cottage faithful were treated to a rare sight as Neeskens Kebano was sent on to replace Floyd Ayite.
A fan favourite in SW6 ever since he arrived in the summer of 2016, Kebano had mysteriously been frozen out of the Fulham squad for months. His return to the pitch won the match for the Whites, and his performances could provide the spark the club need to gain automatic promotion.
Bizarrely, the Democratic Republic of Congo international hadn’t featured for Fulham for over two months. Kebano’s last Fulham appearance had been in the 3-1 win over Barnsley in late January, in a match where the winger was excellent and delivered a brilliant assist.
Nonetheless, for reasons unbeknown to supporters, Kebano was omitted from the squad, playing no league minutes in February or March, and being left off the bench for many matches as well.
Slavisa Jokanovic recalled the winger to the bench versus Leeds, and then just four days later handed him his first appearance since January when Ayite went down with an injury.
— Neeskens Kebano (@Neeskens_Kebano) April 7, 2018
The match was finely poised at 0-0 and appeared to be fizzling out for a goalless draw. Yet Kebano’s introduction added intense pace and purpose to the Fulham attack, leading to a barrage of lethal attacks that eventually resulted in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 78th-minute winner.
Kebano was full of energy and direct running, slipping in dangerous through balls, darting behind the opposition defence, and giving the Wednesday back three a torrid time. His quick one-two with Matt Targett opened up space for Ryan Sessegnon to run free on the left wing, a burst of movement that led to the winning goal.
If Kebano can replicate Saturday’s impactful appearance, it will prove to be a massive boost for the Whites in the remaining five matches. The option of the Congolese attacker adds an extra attacking dimension to Fulham’s gameplan, one which can break down tight matches in the closing stages of games.
With the gap to Cardiff City in second whittled down to just two points after the weekend’s results, fine margins will be vital in the run-in; and Neeskens Kebano could provide Fulham with that slight edge come May.