Once again this weekend, Fulham demonstrated their uncanny ability to offer contrasting performances either side of half-time.
Despite a lively start and a solid first half against Blackburn, the second 45 minutes capitulated into what was eventually a rather lucky escape, with the team almost throwing away a two-goal lead were it not for the lack of goal-line technology in England’s second tier.
There were a number of positives to take away from Sunday however. The defending was still a long way short of something you could refer to as a “solid unit”, but there did seem to be fewer mistakes than in previous weeks. The fact that a back four acquired within the space of a summer can already claim to be as good, if not better than the previous quartet, means things can only get better with time. Naturally it will take a while for Stearman and Ream to build a partnership, but the improvement James Husband offers at left-back when compared to the likes of Vosser, Kavanagh and even Stafalidis last season is there for all to see.
With the exception of his kicking in the second half, Andy Lonergan also should take a lot of credit for keeping us in front. As much as Bettinelli is a bright prospect for the club, his communication and organisational skills have been representative of a young and inexperienced goalkeeper at times, so a solid run of games with a more seasoned stopper should help the back four bed-in quickly.
Further up the field, and despite a slow start to the season, there was a period in the first 25-30 minutes that Ross McCormack was back to his best, albeit he faded as the game went on. I think we all hoped for another striker to come in before the window closed, and many still believe a loan may materialise, but the potential of Dembele and the chance to build a partnership with Ross may in fact be a wise choice in the short term. The improvement in the hold-up play from Dembele this season has been remarkable and resulted in McCormack being involved a lot more in the final third than he had been in previous games, having consistently dropped deep on numerous occasions.
By no means was the win at home to Blackburn something that should leave you thinking that we are now going to embark on an unbelievable run of games, but there should at least be some positivity around grinding out three points when on many other occasions we would have folded. The team still needs time to settle and find that consistency across 90 minutes that we have been missing for so long. It is however refreshing to go into a match knowing we have a back four with potential, a midfield with creativity and a forward line that will hopefully develop a sense of understanding the more they play together.
We are definitely moving in the right direction, There will no doubt be a fair few more blips along the way, but should we be sitting top half at Christmas there is a very real chance the players we now have to choose from can kick on and start to consider the possibility of a play-off place as a best-case scenario.