Despite yet being able to pick up three points, it has been a strong opening to Fulham’s campaign
Two tricky matches – away to Bolton, home to Man United – have shown that the togetherness and spirit, that marked Roy Hodgson’s managerial spell with The Cottagers, is alive and well under new boss Mark Hughes.
Even better news was that the passing moves are still evident as was shown with Simon Davies’ first equaliser against United on Sunday.
In fact, there were many positives, as there usually are from a draw with the perennial title contenders, that indicate Hughes has been smart enough to recognise that tinkering is all that is required.
A little off the pace in the first-half - although Hughes obviously had a few words about what he expected - the team then delivered a much improved second half display, refused to buckle and many players stood out.
Bobby Zamora looked to have grown an inch from his first England cap, while Brede Hangeland - who has always been a rock - seems also to have recognised just how vital he is to the side.
So unfortunate with his own-goal, his determined challenge in United’s box for a last-gasp equaliser seems to suggest Brede is going to be an even bigger influence at the club this season. Mobbed by his teammates, it is clear he is a popular guy too.
Then new signing Moussa Dembele did enough in a second half cameo to suggest his fee will be repaid early. There was also the suggestion that he and Zamora could become a really useful striking partnership in the making, even if, for the moment, his role is limited to ‘impact from the bench’.
Then there is David Stockdale. Sure a dream move and finish from Davies stood out and, yes, Hangeland’s determination to correct his own goal was inspirational, while Zamora made life extremely uncomfortable especially for Jonny Evans.
But Stockdale looked as though he had started a ‘Who’s Mark Schwarzer’ petition – although tough to judge two strong games against two great seasons.
Having been given no chance with Paul Scholes’ beauty or the own goal, the game’s turning point had arrived from 12 yards out. Stockdale stepped up manfully to keep out Nani’s penalty with an excellent save and looked assured throughout the whole game.
It seems Hughes is biding his time on Schwarzer but time is running out with the transfer deadline looming fast. But Stockdale has shown he may just be up for the job. For him, just like the team, it has been a good start to build on.
*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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