Fulham's festive period began with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Derby, courtesy of two second half goals by the hosts. In a match where the Whites were never expected to win, Fulham acquitted themselves well but lacked the crucial finishing touches that the Rams possessed.
The opening minutes were all Derby, with attack upon attack streaming upon Andy Lonergan in the Fulham goal. A dangerous corner was whipped in, and the Whites nearly conceded yet another set piece goal within the five minute mark. Fulham fashioned a chance of their own on 10 minutes, when Ross McCormack slipped a lovely through ball to Alexander Kacaniklic, but his first touch was poor and the shot lacked power as a result.
Fulham were struggling to create anything in attack, due to the two wingers, Luke Garbutt and Kacaniklic, playing too centrally and sitting back deep. Fulham lacked width and creativity, with Jamie O'Hara finding it difficult to assert himself in centre midfield. But the young American, Emerson Hyndman, was surprisingly bright and won his fair share of challenges in the midfield and played some sharp passes.
Derby nearly took a deserved lead right before the half. A sliding challenge from Dan Burn deflected off a player and fell right to Tom Ince, who found himself one on one with Lonergan. But the young winger's chip was too high, much to the delight of the traveling Fulham fans. Kacaniklic fashioned a brilliant chance of his own in the dying minutes of the first half, cutting in from the right and unleashing a superb left footed strike that was well saved by Lee Grant.
The second half started with promise for the Cottagers, and the away side seemed to take heart that the match was still 0-0. Fulham broke well through Kacaniklic, but the Swede held on to the ball too long and his shot was blocked. And just moments later, Derby took the lead. Johnny Russell skipped down the left wing and whipped in a dangerous low ball, which deflected off Hyndman and Ream and into the net. It was a cruel goal to concede, and Fulham found themselves behind 1-0 on 52 minutes.
But despite going down, Fulham pushed on with renewed vigor. The match began to open up and McCormack nearly leveled the score with a delightful curled effort going inches wide of the far corner. Garbutt also forced a good save out of Grant, and the substitute Matt Smith headed a towering effort past the post. After Smith was introduced, the Whites reverted to long ball tactics, and McCormack played a more recessed role. Tom Cairney and Lasse Vigen Christensen both came on and looked lively, and surely one of the two must start in place of Jamie O'Hara next match.
But the late push from the Whites was too little too late, and Derby secured the points with a well taken goal from Jacob Butterfield that exposed the Fulham defence in the 84th minute. Although the result was gone, the away supporters were still in good voice and good humour. Chants of "You're nothing special, we lose every week" and "You have to live here, we get to go home" reverberated throughout the away end in the closing minutes of the match. Some truly great banter by the Fulham faithful.
In the end, the Whites produced a valiant performance against one of the best teams in the league. Many expected a thrashing but it was far from that. However, the need for a manager became ever more clear after the most recent loss. Fulham are now only 3 points away from the relegation zone and haven't won since October. A new manager and the 3 points against Rotherham on Tuesday night are vital. COYW!