Fulham captain Tom Cairney refuses to give up automatic promotion chase after they lost more ground on Leeds and West Brom despite his late equaliser at Bristol City
- Fulham were held to a 1-1 draw by Bristol City in the Championship on Saturday
- They are now seven points behind leaders Leeds and six behind West Brom
- But captain Tom Cairney has refused to give up on automatic promotion bid
- Fulham face west London rivals Brentford next and then travel to Elland Road
- Realistically, Scott Parker’s side will have to be flawless in their last nine games
The only thing Tom Cairney did wrong all afternoon here was to offer his hand to an opponent when the final whistle blew.
Handshakes are currently banned as part of football’s coronavirus fears, replaced by the fair play elbow bump or just a polite smile and a chat.
‘I forgot, it is just natural instinct and I just went to shake someone’s hand and he gave me the elbow!’ said Fulham’s captain.
Fulham’s Tom Cairney celebrates scoring his late equaliser against Bristol City on Saturday
Fulham’s skipper found the bottom corner to earn a point that keeps their top two hopes alive
Luckily, Cairney had led by example with his feet in a stand-out performance crowned by a late equaliser that just about keeps Fulham’s automatic promotion flame burning.
Trouble is, by the time Cairney emerged from the Ashton Gate dressing rooms to speak, Leeds United were a goal to the good against Huddersfield and would finish the afternoon seven points ahead of Fulham.
West Brom are six ahead but it looks very much like the Cairney and Co must negotiate the play-offs in order to reach the Premier League as they did two years ago.
Of course, they won’t give up the chase and after Friday’s west London derby with Brentford that looks very much like a play-off dress rehearsal, Fulham make the trip to Elland Road.
Nahki Wells headed home to hand Bristol City the lead with 19 minutes remaining on Saturday
Wells celebrates his second goal in Bristol City colours and his 17th strike of the season
‘We have the players to win big games and we have the No 9 who is top scorer in the league [Aleksandar Mitrovic] so we can go up there and beat them,’ Cairney said.
If Fulham end up, say, a point shy of the automatic promotion places, they will rue the many chances they missed in this draw with Bristol City.
Bobby Decordova-Reid could have scored a hat-trick against his old club before Nahki Wells headed City into the lead against the run of play.
But Cairney earned Fulham a deserved point when he swept a shot into the bottom corner having been the only player not to stop when referee David Coote played an advantage after a foul.
Manager Scott Parker described Cairney as ‘outstanding’ and was happy the midfielder took aim for goal rather than look for the defence-splitting pass.
Bobby Decordova-Reid was left to rue a series of missed opportunities against his old club
Decordova-Reid reflects on an afternoon in which Fulham were forced to settle for a point
‘I always think about the pass before the shot for some reason, everyone else thinks about the shot before the pass,’ said Cairney.
‘He has been on to me a little bit in that case but hopefully I’ll get a few more goals before the end of the season.’
The point kept City very much in the play-off picture and manager Lee Johnson spoke highly of 18-year-old French midfielder Han-Noah Massengo, who signed from Monaco for £7.2million back in August.
‘Massengo was excellent today, that’s an 18-year-old playing the equivalent of a Premier League side,’ said Johnson.
‘I think he’s had less minutes than only Jude Bellingham at Birmingham in terms of a player under 19 years of age which shows it doesn’t happen a lot.
‘At a level where livelihoods are on the line and points, it shows you how good he is.’
MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Season at a glance
Bristol City (4-4-2): Maenpaa; Pereira, Kalas, Baker (Benkovic 23), Dasilva; Paterson (Diedhiou 64), Smith (c), Massengo, O’Dowda; Weimann, Wells (Eliasson 90)
Substitutes not used: Wollacott (GK); Hunt, Williams, Palmer
Manager: Lee Johnson
Scorer: Wells 71
Booked: Pereira, Benkovic
Fulham (4-3-3): Rodak; Christie, Hector, Ream (Knockaert 82), Odoi; Decordova-Reid (Johansen 90+3), Arter, Cairney (c); Kamara, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro (Kebano 66)
Substitutes not used: Bettinelli (GK); McDonald, O’Riley, Sessegnon
Manager: Scott Parker
Scorer: Cairney 84
Booked: Arter, Odoi
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)
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