The warm standing ovation he received before kick-off on his return in front of the Fulham faithful was the sum total of Micky Adams's joy yesterday, as his Leicester City team were comprehensively defeated by the club he used to manage.
Adams was the first casualty of Fulham's once over-ambitious plans, but expectations have been lowered since the crazy days when the club chairman, Mohamed al-Fayed, was suggesting that Fulham could become "the Manchester United of the South". As a result, the pressure is off, and the players are now performing better than at any stage of their Premiership lives.
Much credit for this turn-around must go to Chris Coleman. When the former Wales international centre-back was promoted from youth-team coach in June, many eyebrows were raised. But the Premiership's youngest-ever manager has performed miracles in the short time he has been in charge, inspiring Fulham to fourth place. "Nobody expected us to be where we are in the table, at any stage of the season," Coleman smiled, "so we're really pleased. If I'm being honest, I don't think we're playing wonderful football, but the important thing is that we're hard to beat."
Solidity is the key to Coleman's strategy, as he uses a 4-5-1 formation at home and away. Such caution explains why it was not until Luis Boa Morte's 25th-minute blocked shot that the crowd had anything to cheer about yesterday.
The move that led to the midfielder's effort was a little fortuitous, as Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque both played inadvertent one-twos off opponents before the Portugal international wriggled free inside the Leicester box and unleashed a left-foot strike at goal which Gerry Taggart did well to deflect.
Fulham finally broke through 11 minutes later, when Malbranque got a foot to Lee Clark's good cross and, in so doing, teed up Boa Morte for a simple left-foot finish. The goal seemed to galvanise the home side further, and they were rewarded for their more intensive pressure when the referee pointed to the spot three minutes before half-time, having adjudged that Taggart pulled Louis Saha down in the area. It was a dubious decision, and perhaps justice was done when Malbranque shot far too close to Ian Walker.
There was still time for Walker, who was being watched by the England goalkeeping coach, Ray Clemence, to impress, when he tipped over a deflected shot from point-blank range.
No Adams team ever give up easily, and this Leicester crop are no exception. Seven minutes after the restart, Alan Rogers launched a long throw into the box which Taggart nodded on into Marcus Bent's path. The former Ipswich striker did his best to reach the ball, but could only toe-poke it wide of Edwin van der Sar's goal.
Adams introduced two strikers, Les Ferdinand and Paul Dickov, on the hour mark. The Foxes were now operating in a bold 4-3-3 system, as they went on the hunt for a point away from home. But the ploy proved fruitless, as Fulham held strong. In fact, the home doubled their advantage on 73 minutes, when Boa Morte latched on to Malbranque's exquisite pass and, after taking what felt like an eternity, found the net with a right-foot finish.
Leicester huffed and puffed thereafter but could not break Fulham down. "When we were promoted, people said we had no chance in this League, and at the moment we're proving them absolutely right," was Adams's candid verdict.
Fulham 2 Leicester City 0
Boa Morte 36, 73
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 14,562Reuse content