There's something subconsciously assuring when you see Danny Murphy step up to take a penalty. There's not quite an arrogant belief that he will most definitely score, but there's enough of a presumption to get your fists ready in celebratory preparation.
Yet again, such fist wrangling was prevalent as Fulham, for want of a more suitable word, smoothed over the potential banana skin of Croatian side RNK Split at the Cottage last night. Danny Murphy and Andrew Johnson got the goals in what was, to much relief, a comforting performance in front of the home crowd.
Martin Jol's men started vociferously, hitting two shots on target in the same number of minutes, clearly in an attempt to put last week's bland and meek display behind them.
The match then began to fluctuate in tempo with Bobby Zamora, playing despite ample strapping on his broken hand, failing to make an impact and RNK countering the wide play for which we can expect to be famous for come season's end.
For all their solid defensive work, however, Ivan Katalinic's men were outdone and, more surprisingly, out-jumped by one of the smaller men on the pitch when a Damien Duff corner was headed in by Andrew Johnson. The goal managed to entice RNK Split from their resolute security a little, as the visitor's searched for a goal in reply. A few sharp breaths were taken as long shots were flung towards Schwarzer's goal, but the Australian was never in too much trouble.
Clint Dempsey looked as sharp as ever as he returned to the starting line-up, his wing play causing no-end of problems. The Texan-born midfielder's close control has proven to be on of the utmost intricacies of his play, and it was such delicacies in touch that drew the first card of the game, as Ivan Baraban brutally challenged the American. That somewhat set the tone for the Croatians throughout the game, who were visibly frustrated with Fulham's general dominance.
RNK appeared revitalised after the break, but away hopes were dashed as Andrew Johnson was brought down in the area and Murphy cooly (is there any need to use this adverb, as we're a bit used to it now?) powered home the penalty.
The game never sparked back into full fruition after RNK were affectively seen off with Murphy's strike - the only highlights being the return of injury-stricken Moussa Dembele. The Belgian had little impact, even when joined on the field by new signing Pajtim Kasami who himself has impressed in the little playing time he has been granted.
With the 2-0 win secured, Fulham now face Dnirpo in the play off round. Only seventeen more matches to go, hey?