Fragile Town blown away AKA Huddersfield 1 – 5 Fulham

There are mitigations, but it is an enormously charitable stretch to believe that a catastrophic home defeat is anything other than portentous for another season of dire struggle.

Missing 4 senior players takes its toll, though one, possibly two, of them will be sold in this window anyway and the shallowness of the squad being exposed so early is desperately worrying.

The enforced absence of Nicholls once again threw Schofield to the lions. Nervous and shredded of confidence, it is now borderline cruelty to play him and with the first choice almost certainly out of Tuesday’s game, Bilokapic should step up. This is a depressing solution that may harm another youngster, but the constant refusal to accept that Ryan Schofield simply isn’t close to being Championship standard has delivered yet another avoidable crisis.

Fulham will undoubtedly challenge for the Championship title this season, but the level of comfort they enjoyed for large swathes of a ludicrously one-sided contest was a tactical embarrassment for Corberán, whose position is surely under severe scrutiny. Home supporters were treated to the young coach’s frantic touchline extortions for the first time in the flesh and, coupled with his Bielsa tribute act, which seems to consist entirely of aping his seating arrangement, few could have been impressed.

A crazy first ten minutes sealed Town’s fate. After an early chance for the visitors was saved by Schofield, the Terriers were denied the lead by a linesman’s flag which was baffling to everyone but the official. The corner had been won by Holmes who forced a save following a lay back by Thomas.

Ward shot into the side netting following a promising move, but amateur hour was just around the corner.

Thomas, who had delivered an excellent corner for the disallowed Pearson effort, inexplicably volleyed a back pass from the halfway line towards Schofield. The ball appeared to be well over the dead ball line as the much-maligned keeper tried to control it on his chest and then saw his, frankly ridiculous, attempt at a clearance hit Mitrovic and into the net.

The outlandish comedy of errors surrounding the opener seemed to paralyse the home team and Fulham dominated all areas of the pitch and imposed their obvious superiority. A full half-hour of struggle followed as Fulham pushed past their opponents with alarming ease. Hogg, Holmes and Vallejo were reduced to rubble as their ponderous attempts to gain even a tiny amount of control utterly failed.

A routine save from Mitrovic, who should have buried the chance, was followed by the same player heading past Schofield only to be called offside. Wilson missed a sitter as the visitors’ grip on the game became overwhelming.

For the second week in a row, Town was finally breached on the back post following a corner. It was the least the Londoners deserved and there looked no way back for the demoralised hosts.

Out of the blue, however, and with just 5 minutes until the sanctuary of halftime, Town halved the deficit as Pearson met another Thomas corner delivery. If the Terriers could professionally see out the rest of the half, a glimmer of hope could be embraced.

It was extinguished within 2 minutes when Holmes lost possession following a throw-in and Fulham burst forward. Turton and Koroma allowed Decordova-Reid to advance into the area and provide Carvalho with an easy chance and the two-goal cushion was restored.

Town had thrown away a barely deserved foothold in the game with rank amateurism and left the pitch to understandable jeers of a crowd seeing their return to the stadium ruined by the ineptitude so familiar from home viewing.

Campbell replaced the ineffective Ward at halftime while Vallejo was chosen, presumably by lots, to be sacrificed and High came on. Corberán could have hooked any of the 3 midfielders, and it was a little surprising that Holmes and Hogg, both of whom had shockers, were left on.

High added some energy to the docile Terriers, and for a time a level of competency threatened to break out. It was short-lived and while Koroma finally made Gazzaniga in the Fulham goal make an easy save, it wasn’t long before the visitors regained control, with Wilson hitting the bar after Schofield parried the ball in the Welsh international’s path.

Wilson was sent off for a retaliatory kick on Colwill after the Chelsea loanee had fouled him.

Seasoned Town supporters know that the opposition going down to ten men is rarely a cause for optimism, and it proved to be entirely meaningless again. Trying to push forward, Town were caught square by a superbly weighted pass for Cavaleiro, who had the easy chance to beat Schofield for Fulham’s 4th after destroying Pearson for pace.

The final humiliation came just before the curtain came down on yet another heavy, punishing defeat under Corberán, with Cavaleiro easily avoiding the attention of Pearson to give the scoreline an entirely accurate representation of the game.

With the exception of Colwill, whose ease on the ball puts his massively more experienced colleagues to shame, the summer recruitment programme, which aimed to add depth to Town’s elderly and creaking defence of 2019/20, lay shattered and broken by the end.

Ripped asunder by a vastly superior opponent, it may prove to be a simple mismatch of resources, but the nature of the defeat was deeply demoralising, and witnessing it live brought the club’s travails stretching back to early 2018 into bleak focus.

Poor recruitment, a coach who tries to impose a style of play well beyond the resources at his disposal and a hierarchy grappling with the problems left behind by the former benefactor add up to yet another season of struggle.

Serving up a supine, error-ridden display with virtually no redeeming qualities in front of their first live home crowd was disastrous; the suspicions of those not already convinced that a desolate future seems inevitable were starkly brought to the fore, making redemption even more difficult to achieve.

It was unfortunate to have to play a weakened team against a relegated Premier League squad likely to bounce back, but Town was incapable of meeting any of the challenges such a fixture brings and the reasons for that failure are far more complex and deep-seated than economic disparity.

Fulham, cheered on by a disappointing number of followers, effortlessly negotiated an easy game and though they would be wise not to overestimate the value of this victory given the shambolic opponent, look well equipped to go straight back up again. By the time they drop back down, the chances of them making another trip to Huddersfield look slim.

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