It usually takes a lot for Fulham’s well-heeled supporters to turn on their managers but judging by their reaction at the final whistle after Jordon Mutch’s injury-time goal handed Cardiff a deserved victory, Martin Jol is on borrowed time.
The Dutch manager left the field to boos and chants of ‘Jol out’ after a lacklustre display in which they were largely outclassed by Malky Mackay’s impressive side. The defeat leaves Fulham in the bottom three after an awful start to the season that has seen them pick up just a solitary point after victory at Sunderland on the opening day.
It may be too early to talk about a crisis just yet, although on this showing new owner Shahid Khan would be justified to ask a few searching questions when he meets his manager in the week. Jol was his usual bullish self after the match, although he has been around long enough to know that he can not afford many more similar performances.
“They expect us to do better,” he said when pressed on the home crowd’s dissatisfaction. “If you look at the players we have brought in – Darren Bent, Berbatov, Ruiz – then you have to say we have done well to attract them. But now it’s late in September and we have to play together. A lot of teams in the bottom three get pressure so I will take responsibility. We’re not having the rub of the green. I’m always calm, but I hate it when people are getting nervous, especially if they ask a manager to quit. That is awful because you never know what is going to happen with a new manager.
“If we are bottom of the table at the end of the season it’s not about me because I won’t be here. It’s about the club and I don’t want to see this club do that.”
In a week that saw the Michael Jackson statue returned to former owner Mohamed Al Fayed, Fulham were looking to record their first victory at Craven Cottage since 1 April against Queens Park Rangers. Khan used his programme notes to stress the importance of establishing their home ground “as a difficult, if not impossible place for clubs to visit”. In contrast, Cardiff had not won an away match in the top-flight since they overcame a Fulham side featuring Johnny Haynes in 1961 so something had to give.
The loss of Scott Parker to a calf injury in the seventh minute was the first sign that it might not be Fulham’s day. On what was to become a recurring theme, the former Tottenham defender Steven Caulker was unchallenged in the box as he headed home following a simple corner routine in the 13th minute.
Cardiff spurned a series of chances created by Peter Whittingham’s pinpoint set-pieces to put the game out of sight. Ben Turner had the best of them as he struck the post with a header, while Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale was lucky to escape when the referee ruled he had been fouled by Aron Gunnarson before Caulker put the ball in the net.
Bryan Ruiz equalised with a brilliant curler from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time, minutes after replacing Alex Kacaniklic. However Fulham did not win on the four occasions the Costa Rican scored last season and so it proved again.
Dimitar Berbatov missed Fulham’s best chance to take the lead when he headed over. Before then, Fraizer Campbell missed from close range after being picked out by Mutch and the game seemed to be heading for a draw. Nothing appeared on as the ball was launched forward to Mutch on the edge of the box in the second minute of injury time. Kieran Richardson lost his man for a split second and that was enough time to allow the substitute to unleash an unstoppable drive.
“I was delighted with the way we played today from the first minute to the last. To have 24 attempts on goal away from home is a fantastic stat,” said Mackay. “We’ve got a real belief after six games that we belong at this level.”
Fulham (4-4-2): Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson; Kacaniklic (Ruiz, 41), Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis, 7), Kasami; Berbatov, Bent (Taarabt, 85)
Cardiff (4-3-3): Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor; Gunnarsson, Medel, Kim (Mutch, 56); Odemwingie (Bellamy, 80), Campbell (Maynard, 72), Whittingham
Referee: Darren Deadman
Man of the match: Peter Whittingham (Cardiff)
Match rating: 7/10