A morale boosting win from a new look Fulham side who gave a fantastic first impression. The fans were buoyed by Fulham's organisation, commitment and positive approach to the game, against a Newcastle side expecting to win. The team rating would be higher than individual ratings, and it is clear that we do need a couple more players in the squad. Despite that, this truly was a fantastic evening down by the river.
Button - 7 - Commanding, imposing and good with his feet, Button made a strong first impression and looked every bit our number 1. He was calm on the ball, and made one terrific stop with his feet as well as a sprawling stop as the ball looped over his head towards the end. A very strong first impression.
Odoi - 6 - If you are yet to watch Odoi's back control towards the end of the second half, drop everything and watch it. Stop reading these ratings. I mean it. Over the course of the game, the second half in particular, he did show a willingness to get forward and worked himself into some really good positions. His deliveries were poor, as was his positioning defensively. He was caught out of position early on from a ball over the top and was lucky to avoid a red card for clumsily bringing the player down. He is strong with good pace, this was a shaky debut from Oboi, my opinion on him is reserved. He was fabulous entertainment at times though and could quickly endear himself to the fans.
Kalas - 8 - A very impressive debut from the Chelsea loanee. He was strong, assured and calm. He and Madl showed a good understanding, covering for each other on a number of occasions. Kalas won every header and rarely missed a tackle. This was a very impressive debut.
Madl - 8 - Despite his relatively short stature for a CB, Madl demonstrated all of his attributes during the game today. He was strong in the tackle and in the air, as well as reading the play to a near telepathic level, making a large number of interceptions. Defensively, Fulham looked very assured today. Not only that, Madl and Kalas distributed and moved the ball around very effectively and, more importantly, purposefully. They did not fall into the trap of pointless balls, but looked to work it forward where possible. A mature display, and the man of the match.
Malone - 7 - This was a very solid debut from Fulham's new left back. He is tall and physical, defending well throughout the game. He also was able to get forward into some good positions, although his final ball will need to improve. Despite this, Malone contributed a lot to our strong defensive showing and Newcastle got very little passed him. A marauding run in the second half led to a shot that just dragged wide. Although not as exciting as Husband, who many fans wanted us to sign, Malone will help to shore up the defence.
McDonald - 7 - Fulham have been courting McDonald for some time, and he gave glimpses of why over the course of the game. His touch was like velcro throughout the game, making short passes to keep the game moving, as well as trying to advance the attack where he could. His stature makes him appear a little slower than he actually is, and he showed glimmers of Danny Murphy over the course of the game. A very good signing, who will make a difference during the season.
Tunnicliffe - 6 - As always, Tunnicliffe was full of effort and running. This partnered well with McDonald during the first half and they complimented each other. His distribution was mixed, and he gave away possession on quite a few occasions, showing a hint of panic in his play. His position is the one that Jovanovic will be looking to fill with a dynamic centre midfielder. Tunnicliffe is certainly a good squad player and will rightfully get plenty of games over the course of the season.
Cairney - 7 - I was very surprised to see Cairney appointed as vice-captain, despite the fact that he is clearly a quality player. The first half largely passed Cairney by, he had very few meaningful touches of the ball and the new formation seemed to bypass his position. During the second half he became much more involved, with a few terrific runs down the right hand side. His technique and vision were there to see, and he will thrive playing with McDonald and Ayite. He put in an excellent corner for the goal.
Aluko - 7 - An impressive and promising debut from Aluko. He was direct, strong, aggressive and lively. Both Aluko and Ayite contributed in a big way to the momentum and mentality of the new look Fulham side. Although he was fairly quiet in the first half, when he drifted into the space behind the midfielders the whole team came to life. He was less effective when he went up front, but is also capable in this position, evidence by his hold up play and smart backheel to tee up a chance for Malone. A very good signing, who will certainly score and be involved in goals this season.
Ayite - 7 - As with Aluko, Ayite excited the crowd. He looked sharp, pacy and had great feet. He also showed aggression across the pitch and supported Malone regularly when he needed to. He was able to create a few chances by running at players and close jinking runs. He is a departure from the lightweight players of the previous season (such as Christiensen, Hyndman, Kacka) and was someone that the other side will be nervous to mark. If Fulham can sign a leading man up front, Ayite will only get better.
Smith - 6 - The hero of the game, with an exceptional header accounting for the only goal. Save for this, Smith was not involved in most of Fulham's play. This was more due to the team than Smith, as they rarely played to his strengths. For example, he rarely had an inviting ball played to him in the box, or accurate passes for him to link up play. Despite that, he was being marked by two very good, and expensive, Newcastle defenders and was a presence. This enabled the midfielders to play around him and cause trouble. When he left the pitch towards the end, Fulham looked less likely to score. He deserves to stay at Fulham and will be an important squad player over the course of the season, provided we use him effectively.
Parker - 6 - Parker came on with around 20 minutes left and improved the side. He was involved in the play, pushing McDonald slightly out of position, won tackles and kept possession well.
Ream - 5 - He came on very close to the end for the impression Malone and had almost nothing to do, save for a couple of tackles.
Christiensen - 6 - Coming on for Smith, Christiensen played on the left and kept possession well, with a few attacking runs up the left. He was very lightweight defensively and we looked a little more vulnerable. Although a quality player on the ball, he is quite ineffective and may struggle to get game time this season.