It was all going well for Fulham heading into September’s international break. Fulham were alongside West Bromwich Albion as joint favourites for an immediate return to the Premier League.
A draw on opening day dampened Marco Silva’s first game in charge but a run of five wins in all competitions followed as Fulham were top of the Championship and flying. It was all going perfectly with the emergence of youth prospect Fabio Carvalho, who was contributing with goals and assists, and alongside that Aleksander Mitrovic had signed a new five-year contract and spirits were high as Fulham were playing some sumptuous football. They had just beaten a Stoke side who had started the season strongly. It was a convincing 3-0 victory, and it brought the end of the first segment of the season, as the international break took centre stage for the next fortnight.
Fulham were back in action on 11 September, away at a newly promoted Blackpool side without a win all season. Fulham just were not at the races, suffering their first defeat of the season. An early mishap, a setback for Marco Silva’s men. Fulham travelled to Birmingham four days later and all was forgotten. A rousing 4-1 win in the black country and it was business as usual.
It was the following Saturday where Fulham were caught out again and were defeated at Craven Cottage for the first time this season. They went down 2-1 at the hands of Reading, a game where Fulham should have scored more. A smash and grab from the Royals. A midweek penalty shoot-out loss to Premier League Leeds knocked Fulham out of the Carabao Cup. It was very much a mood of ‘focus on the league’ from the Fulham faithful. But Fulham were yet again frustrated at Ashton Gate where they let the lead slip and dropped two points against Bristol City, again Fulham much the better side and should have got the three points.
A rigorous fixture list meant another midweek fixture, a home game against a struggling Swansea. Aleksander Mitrovic scored his tenth goal of the season with a first half hat-trick as Fulham blew away the Swans and looked like their old self again.
Their last match, at Coventry stood out for many reasons. It was a fixture that hadn’t been played in the league since 1968. Coventry had won every home game so far this season and looked very good under Mark Robins. It was the 12:30 kick off, live on Sky and the Ricoh Arena was bouncing along with the rain drops.
Fulham were far from impressive in the first half despite taking the lead and going into the break a goal up. As it stood, they were top of the Championship and there was a buzz in the away concourse. Fulham came out for the second half and looked a shell of anything we’ve seen this campaign. Tim Ream and Josh Onomah got into an almighty mix-up at the back which gifted Coventry their equaliser. So preventable, so easily avoidable and so very frustrating for Marco Silva and the visiting Fulham fans.
Moments later a penalty was awarded. Robinson hung out a leg and it was enough for the referee to point to the spot, however replays showed there was no contact. Suddenly, Fulham were trailing in the wet and increasingly miserable lunchtime fixture for the travelling support.
Matters went from bad to worse for Silva’s men as their misery was compounded, losing 4-1, their heaviest defeat of the season and another international break to ponder on their disastrous second half display.
So, what now? Marco Silva has lost three games and drawn two, with six wins. It’s not awful, Fulham sit fifth and, just two points off the top two. But the manner of the defeat on Saturday was worrying, a complete capitulation.
On the horizon, a derby match against QPR – a game with so much at stake, not just for the fans but for these two West London club’s seasons. Play-Off hopefuls Rangers, high off a late win against Preston, will go to Craven Cottage against a side licking their wounds and desperate to return to winning ways.