After six barren games, Fulham finally managed to secure their first Premier League victory of 2020/21 as they defeated West Bromwich Albion under the lights at Craven Cottage on Monday evening.
A good performance from the Cottagers was rewarded by three precious points thanks to goals from Bobby Decordova-Reid and Ola Aina. The result sees the hosts climb out of the relegation zone for the first time this season, with West Brom dropping in.
Fulham manager Scott Parker addressed the media virtually after the match — here are his most noteworthy quotes.
On a positive display
Disappointment was the byword following the home defeat to Crystal Palace last Saturday, but this felt like a huge step in the right direction for Fulham.
The Cottagers were sharper, more cohesive and more direct here, seeing less of the ball than West Brom but fashioning 13 shots to the 10 of their visitors. It’s an improvement with which Parker is understandably delighted.
“Overall, an all-round very good performance,” he said. “The result was everything and we realised that. We had a real endeavour about us and showed our quality and were well worthy of the two goals. I was pleased with how we managed the game in the second half against a team we knew would come out and put us under pressure.”
On Aina’s goal
The moment of the match was Fulham’s second goal, a mark of the individual quality that has always been brimming in this squad but, until Monday, had yet to truly come to the fore.
Former Torino full-back Aina made a good underlapping run on the right and received the ball from Aleksandar Mitrovic before powering home emphatically into the far top corner on his weaker left foot.
“It was a great strike,” said Parker. “We’re going to have to take risks in and around the box and Ola did that, and it’s flown into the top corner. Anyone watching us with an open mind will see that we have quality. We had some lovely bits in both halves.”
On team effort
When asked to select who he thought the difference-maker was for his side in this contest, Parker flat-out refused. It was the belief and efficiency of the collective that gave Fulham the clear edge over their opponents.
The Cottagers hunted the ball in packs, defended well as a unit and produced spells of intricate attacking build-up: they looked a team well-drilled and well-versed in what their manager demands of them.
“I’m conscious of singling players out, but to a man we were top drawer. You can’t single one player out tonight. It was solid at the back, but as a team we worked hard. I remember them having one shot on target, so we were solid in that instance. It’s something we can build on.”
On moving above the relegation zone
For the first time this season, Fulham are out of the bottom three, and their ultimate aim will be to avoid dropping in there again for the rest of the season.
It’s probable that there’s some psychological benefit to be derived from keeping your head above the water as it were, but Parker will pay no attention to it, and is focused solely on the continual development of his team and their adjustment to the league.
“Our position right now is irrelevant,” the 40-year old said, bluntly. “What is relevant is the team moving in the right direction, improving and moving forward. I’ve seen that in the previous weeks. The table is irrelevant right now, we’ll see where we are come the end of the season.”
On future fortunes
This is a huge result for Fulham and yet, in reality, it doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things — there’s still an awful lot of work to be done if the Cottagers are to achieve survival this time around.
Parker wants his team to enjoy the high of victory, but also to stay grounded and prepared for the twists and turns that the Premier League will throw at them.
“We understand where we are and how our season will look; we are going to have a lot of bumps and I’m not afraid to say that. There is a bit of relief, we want to win football matches. I’ve got a very good team here and we know this will be difficult.”