Saturday 17 August 2019

Hughes condemns Fulham to drop after mismanaged season

Watford 4 Fulham 1

Fulham's Tom Cairney and his team-mates show their dejection. Photo: Reuters
Fulham's Tom Cairney and his team-mates show their dejection. Photo: Reuters

Sam Dean

So many of the 76 goals that have nestled in Fulham's net this season have been agonisingly preventable, so there was at least something fresh about the strike that finally confirmed their inevitable relegation.

Their hopes of survival were ended by a firecracker of a volley from Watford's Will Hughes, unleashed from the edge of the box, that even the meanest defence would have been unable to stop.

Fulham's Andre Schurrle is challenged by Watford's Domingos Quina. Photo: Getty Images
Fulham's Andre Schurrle is challenged by Watford's Domingos Quina. Photo: Getty Images

There might have been some consolation in that for Fulham, if they had not then gone and conceded two more typically sloppy goals, to Troy Deeney and Kiko Femenia.

Unfortunately for them, those two moments were a neat encapsulation of the Fulham we have come to expect in this mismanaged campaign, when they paid the price for changing too much and spending too much.

Will Fulham be missed? As a club, of course. As a competitive addition to the Premier League, perhaps not. It says plenty about their struggles this season that they have now conceded at least two goals in every match they played in 2019.

Such defending will not cut it, no matter how much the mood has been lifted by Scott Parker's instalment as caretaker manager.

Fulham's caretaker manager Scott Parker. Photo: Getty Images
Fulham's caretaker manager Scott Parker. Photo: Getty Images

It perhaps did not help their cause that Watford have an FA Cup semi-final to be preparing for, and places in Javi Gracia's side up for grabs. Andre Gray, on as a substitute, created two goals in the second half, after Abdoulaye Doucoure's opener had been cancelled out by Ryan Babel.

The large white banner in the away end, reading "Fulham relegation party", said all you needed to know about the Fulham supporters' approach to this one. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine, and those in the away end have been through too much this season to take a largely inoffensive trip to Watford too seriously.

"That's why we're going down," came the chant early on, when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa ruined a counter-attack by passing the ball straight into touch. "QPR, we're coming for you," was the next one, delivered after Doucoure had ambled through Fulham's non-existent midfield and lashed home a powerful shot from the edge of the box to give Watford the lead.

It was a predictably sloppy goal for Fulham to concede and it came at the precise moment in which they seemed to be taking control of the game. Their performance was generally good, though, and Watford's lead did not last for long.

Ryan Sessegnon, starting on the right wing, cut inside and picked out Babel, whose speed and power left both Adrian Mariappa and Ben Foster trailing on the floor as the ball was rolled into the empty net. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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