We’re top of the greasy pole. Mark Sellers tells you how we got there.
An away trip to Fulham is always a pleasant prospect and the City fans were in an optimistic mood as they made their way along the banks of Thames to the Craven Cottage.
Having just completed a six-point week after comfortably beating Cardiff and then demolishing Charlton at the KC it was hoped that the stellar run would continue away from home. Bruce fielded an unchanged side, with the now familiar 4-4-2 line-up taking the field against a Fulham side who have only won once in the last 14 league games.
The home side started the brighter of the two, but failed to trouble the City goal in the opening exchanges. Then on eleven minutes it’s City who come the closest to scoring, when Hernández chases down a ball from Diamé and forces a good save from the Fulham keeper. The Fulham defence shepherd the ball out for a corner and danger is averted.
The rest of the first half was poor in terms of entertainment and goalmouth action as neither side made much impact. Fulham play a possession game and kept the ball very well, but this seldom resulted in a threat on goal. Scott Parker and (ex-Tiger) Tom Cairney controlled the game in the midfield but the City defence was resolute and relatively untroubled. Fulham clearly miss their top scorer Ross McCormack, and as the first 45 minutes draw to a close it looks like it will remain goalless, but then the home side suddenly create an opportunity to take the lead.
Cairney fired a shot towards the right side of the City goal and McGregor does well to get a hand to it, but the ball is parried into the path of Kacaniklic. As the Swede is winding up to fire the home team ahead Odubajo makes a game-saving block and the ball pings out off play.
The second half starts with both teams unchanged, and City attacking the end housing the traveling City support, who are in fine voice.
On 50 minutes a strong challenge by Hayden earns him a booking. Five minutes later Scott Parker fired a long range shot at the City goal, which was well saved by McGregor.
Huddlestone replaces Hayden in midfield on 71 minutes, and shortly after Odubajo collects a yellow card for a handball offence.
On the 80th minute comes the moment that decides the game. Odubajo makes a marauding run into the box, and is felled by Lasse Vigen Christensen. It’s as clear-cut a penalty as you’re likely to see, and Hernández places the ball on the spot. City’s top scorer fires the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the goal – keeper Lonergan gets a hand to it, but can’t stop the ball rolling over the line. 0-1.
Minutes later it could have been 0-2 as a Snodgrass corner finds the head of Maguire who nods it down for Diamé. Lonergan does enough to put him off though, and the shot is blasted over the bar.
It feels like City have done enough, but on 90 minutes a great curling 25 yard free-kick from Jamie O’Hara would have leveled the score if it wasn’t for a brilliant one-handed save from McGregor.
There are five minutes added but the game drifts away from Fulham and City are the victors despite only having had 33% of the possession.
Not a great game, or a great City performance, but the Tigers took all three points again from a visit to the Capital. It’s heartening to see a resolute defensive display with both Davies and Maguire looking solid at the back. McGregor and Odubajo also put in great performances that helped secure the win. With Middlesbrough losing at home to Forest, City now top the table. Heady days indeed.
Mark Sellers @mrmarksellers