Rams frustrate Mitro-less Fulham as leaders are held
Fulham (0) 0
Derby County (0) 0
Fulham endured a night of unremitting frustration as they failed to cash in on an absolute glut of chances.
Having bagged 48 goals in their 18 Championship games to date, they fully expected to put rock-bottom Derby away but came up against a Rams team who refused to yield and made the most of some luck that came their way.
This was a match where the Whites had to find alternatives to missing goal machine Aleksander Mitrovic and skipper-playmaker Tom Cairney – who both played in the 4-1 rout of Barnsley on Saturday, which took Fulham to the summit of the Championship.
But the Whites drew a blank for the first time since the September defeat at Blackpool.
They remain top at least, with Bournemouth also held to a draw – at Millwall.
With seven straight wins going into a match against the division’s bottom club – albeit because of deducted points - ambitions and expectations were hardly dented ahead of the game despite the absence of their talismanic star striker.
This is a team which has blasted 25 goals in those recent wins, after all.
They peppered the Derby goal to the tune of 23 shots – to Derby’s four– but this was one of those games when it simply would not go in for Marco Silva’s men, with ex-England international Phil Jagielka leading the resistance.
Jean Michael Seri’s strange curate’s egg of a match perhaps summed up the match for Fulham.
Stumbling in possession and ploughed through with humiliating ease by the robust Curtis Davies, his lack of bight in the tackle offered up a golden opening for Rams skipper Tom Lawrence that Paulo Gazzaniga did well to stop.
But the midfielder came close to making the breakthrough by unleashing a fearsome drive from 25 yards which crashed back off the bar in what would be the first of many near misses.
Neeskens Kebano also suggested he might be the man to unlock the obstinate Derby defence. His clipped free-kick almost deflected in and there were first-half chances too for Fabio Carvalho and Mitro stand-in Rodrigo Muniz, who all pinged in shots.
The Rams, to be fair, showed great commitment to get in many a last-gasp block to thwart the Whites and it wasn’t quite all one way. Lawrence had another crack later on too, which was turned aside spectacularly.
Wayne Rooney’s team may need something miraculous to beat the drop, given their near hopeless position, but a win against Bournemouth ahead of this encounter suggested plenty of life left in them and so it proved.
The pattern of close shaves and mounting frustration continued after the break. Tosin rose up to head back across goal and Carvalho spun before clipping a shot against the base of a post.
Harry Wilson and Kebano then combined to give Carvalho another sniff from close-range, only for keeper Kelle Roos to block with his leg.
From a Kenny Tete cross, Carvalho fired a left-foot volley at Roos and Muniz’ follow-up header was cleared off the line. And from another Tete cross, Muniz’ acrobatic overhead kick just cleared the crossbar.
It just was not meant to be.
Whites: (4-2-3-1) Gazzaniga – Tete, Tosin, Ream, Robinson – Sei, Reed (Onomah 66) – Wilson (Knockaert 78), Carvalho, Kebano –Muniz. Subs not used: Las, Hector, Odoi, Decordova-Reid, Bryan
Rams: (4-3-3) Roos – Byrne, Jagielka, Davies, Forsyth (Morrison 83) – Bird, Thompson, Shinnie – Ebosele (Kazim-Richards 70), Lawrence, Knight. Subs not used: Allsop, Jozwiak, Stearman, Sibley, Williams