Under pressure Parker willing to front up with Fulham as Hodgson makes winning return with Palace
By Julian Taylor at Craven Cottage
Scott Parker insists that only hard work will see both improvement from struggling Fulham, as well as strengthening his own position.
The Cottagers’ head coach oversaw another Premier League setback on Saturday, a 2-1 defeat at home to resourceful Crystal Palace. And despite the occasional shard of positivity, Fulham remain bottom of table with just a single point from six games; the kind of grim statistic which can loom ominously for any manager.
There is little doubt the newly-promoted west Londoners are finding life troublesome in the top tier, where, unlike in the Championship, mistakes are ruthlessly punished. Palace, under former Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, were clinical in taking their opportunities and displayed a superior know-how for most of this capital derby at Craven Cottage.
The Eagles showed their intent with a well-taken opener after just eight minutes by Jairo Riedewald. Fulham hit the woodwork twice in the first half, before discovering the ill-fortune of fine margins at this level. Wilfried Zaha netted following a Palace counter-attack in the second half to earn the points, despite a superb consolation strike in stoppage time by Fulham captain Tom Cairney.
It was a sign, too, of the overall disappointment for the hosts when substitute Abou Kamara was sent off late on, for a high tackle on Ebere Eze. However by then the prospect of a remarkable Fulham revival was altogether remote.
“I can’t control how long I have,” said Parker of his position. “What I can do is what I’ve normally done throughout my career. During these hard times, you need to front it up and work as hard as I possibly can to get the rewards. It’s out of my hands.
“We were playing against a team who are happy without the ball at times. It became very difficult for us. We need to learn from how this game panned out. We had a dominance but at times in the final third we lacked shots and a dynamic. We hit the post twice but that’s how I saw today.”
In terms of overall team mood, Parker added: “I don’t think confidence is proving an issue. The dynamics of this division and what this division brings show we need to learn, and we need to pick up goals. You never want to concede goals.
“Today for the first 15 minutes we showed pure domination. We lacked a real threat, but we had a control, the first time they go forward, they score. It was the same in the second half, we came out of the blocks well and then it’s 2-0."
Meanwhile, Hodgson was clearly pleased at the outcome, with Palace a current Premier League surprise package, sitting in fifth place. Team spirit and overall strength in depth are, he says, integral to the Eagles’ progress.
"We’ve got a stronger squad," he said. "There’s no question of that. Looking at the bench today there were some good players that had been kept out by the fact we had a good start and the guys who got in, for one reason or another, have managed to keep their places. That’s a major factor without a shadow of a doubt.
"I think the team discipline, organisation and work rate is also extremely important. Even on days when our passing and attacking play isn’t quite as good as it was today we still stay in games and give ourselves a chance of getting some points.
"And I think the team spirit is very good - the guys know what they’ve got to do to climb up the table and they’re all determined I think to do that.
“We're more than happy to have got 10 points from six games. I don't quite know where that puts us in the league but I have said on many occasions and I have to repeat: I don't think league positions after six games are of any great importance. Maybe after you get past halfway stage it starts to get a bit more relevant.”
Talisman Zaha yet again had the Eagles soaring early as the flamboyant winger grabbed his fifth goal of the campaign.
“I'm more than happy today to praise him, but it's quite a common occurrence for me praising Wilf Zaha because he does so many good things,” explained ex-Fulham boss Hodgson.
“He's started this season so well, that's his fifth goal, which is quite incredible really, and an assist into the bargain. So we're more than happy with him and at the moment I think he's happy with us and the way that we're trying to play.”