Fulham manager Scott Parker insisted that Fulham can only gain promotion this season by playing football, not basketball, after a dominant display against West Brom at Craven Cottage only earned them a 1-1 draw.
The deliberate control-based possession that Parker preaches on the training ground saw Fulham create and miss a host of chances in the first hour, apart from an Anthony Knockaert cross that dipped under the bar to give them a deserved lead.
What happened next left Parker a helpless and worried spectator as West Brom forced a draw though a Semi Ajayi goal and might have stolen all three points.
Parker said: “I’m disappointed with the result and the way the match ended because for 60 minutes we controlled the game.
“The players were incredibly brave in the way we were playing because West Brom were wanting us to come onto them quickly and it takes a lot of courage to play out from the back.
“There is a reason we do that, though, especially today. We dominated the first half and had some glorious opportunities. I don’t think anyone would have begrudged us if we had been 2-0 up at half-time.
“But then we stopped doing it. We went from front to back very early and played into the hands of a team that has a lot of pace on the break.
“We kept turning the ball over and made it into a basketball, a 50-50. I was standing on the sidelines and I started feeling that we were vulnerable. In the end if West Brom had won the game, we might have had to say they deserved it at that point.
“It just proved the way that I want the players to play. If we turn games into basketball games, we are going to be beaten because we haven’t got the players to play like that.
“I want the players to understand the best way was for us to be successful is how we played in the first hour.”
Parker insisted that his players have to keep ignoring the pleas of the Fulham fans to move the ball more quickly front to back.
He added: “It would be easy to just have Marcus Bettinelli bang the ball up to Aleksandar Mitrovic. It takes more courage and bravery to play how I want us to play. In a way it makes my job easier for next week because today proves that.”
For West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, the worry was the exact opposite – how to ensure his team play with as much passion, commitment and nous in the first 60 minutes of games as they have in the final half-hour.
The point keeps Albion unbeaten after seven games, yet the Croat is adamant his side’s start would be even better if they did not have to keep coming from behind in games.
Bilic said: “It was a fair result. Fulham are a good team, one of the favourites to go up and they can take you back to your own box.
“In the first part of the game, we were trying to press them too high on each individual. That’s what they want and we had to change it and not press unless you can smell the moment to do it.
“But then we showed again what a good squad we have, what character we have and how resilient we are. By the end of the match, they were more happy to hear the final whistle than we were.
“Being unbeaten after seven games is nice and it gives you that little bit of extra confidence. But I’d rather that we score earlier in games.
“There’s never a bad time to score a goal, but I’m not happy that we have to concede a goal in order to play at our top level. Having said that, this is definitely one of the hardest grounds to come to in the Championship.”