Fulham manager Scott Parker insisted that his side’s 2-1 victory over Leeds at Craven Cottage was far more important in re-establishing the morale of his side than in closing the gap on their opponents.
Fulham are now in third place in the Championship, nine points behind Leeds, yet Parker believes their victory will resonate far beyond the league table.
Parker said: “The most overriding feeling I have at this moment in time is pride. I spoke to the players before the game and said: ‘You’re not getting judged today on technique or what a good football player you are. There are 20,000 coming here today and people are judging you, and me, on what you are like as a man. Can you stand up when the chips are down because the chips at this moment are down?’
“Your eyes often don’t lie in football. That’s what people told me. Today I saw a team that was on the front foot, aggressive and determined to make a statement. A team that showed passion and desire.
“One man’s strength is never greater than a team of players. The team represented me and it represented what this football club is about. That’s what made me the happiest.
“Coming off three straight losses, like we were, the most important thing was putting in a performance.
“At times last week we didn’t stick to our plan at Brentford, but to a man today this team executed the game plan and ultimately caused Leeds problems.”
Parker praised Josh Onomah whose first goal for the club proved the difference between the two sides.
He added: “Josh has been fantastic and I am so, so pleased for him. I coached Josh when he was a 15-year-old boy at Spurs and I know what ability he’s got. I know everything about him.
“He came in here and he struggled a little bit. He would admit that. Everyone seeing him over the first few weeks was sceptical and would have had a lot of doubts, but he represented everything that I spoke about today – what character does and what passion does.
“He deserved his moment. And he deserved that moment to stay 2-1, not go 3-1 or 4-1. I wanted it to stay 2-1 and for Josh to take the winning goal because he showed massive grit.”
In spite of his side’s defeat which followed on from last week’s draw against Cardiff, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa was far from downhearted.
He said: “We play against one of the most powerful opponents in the league. We defended well. I didn’t see Fulham unbalance us today. We spoke about (Aleksandar) Mitrovic and (Ivan) Cavaleiro and how Fulham play makes them the best team in the league.
“If you analyse the statistics, it is clear that Fulham is the best team in the Championship. They play well on the counter-attack, but today they didn’t damage us or create chances.
“They scored from a corner and from a penalty. They had just one more chance. We had seven or eight chances to win the match. We defend very well because we played against great attackers.
“The only thing that’s a shame after the match about our team is that after we scored we conceded possession in our half more, so it was more what we allowed them to do than what they did for themselves.
“That was important because this was the moment to win the match. But if you analyse the full match, it’s a little detail.”
Bielsa is content to see his team in second place in the Championship midway through the season, but the Argentinian maintains his side could be in an even better position.
Bielsa added: “Our level of play has been good. I don’t think we have played a match where the opponent has beaten us or has been better than us, but you look at a game like today and we could have had five more points or at least three more points.
“It’s necessary to ask ourselves what would happen if hadn’t missed out on some points that we deserve to win.
“It is important that teams get what they deserve, but when teams don’t get what they deserve, there are some things you need to improve.”
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