Close. Closer. The Hatters came away from Craven Cottage with ‘what might have been’ after a solid display that on another could have seen the celebration of a first point of the season in the Premier League. Perhaps even all three.
However, as we have learned, you can be punished at this level, and so it proved as despite creating chances the Hatters fell to a narrow fourth successive defeat to leave Fulham relieved to take all three points.
With four changes to the side that fell to West Ham – including a debut for Sambi Lokonga in midfield and a first start for Jacob Brown – the Town’s first half display warranted better than to go in at half-time at 0-0.
After weathering a sustained period of Fulham possession, the Hatters had the better of the final 20 minutes of the opening half in the West London sunshine.
Growing into the game, Carlton Morris first went close, volleying a shot into the side netting on 25 minutes. Then, two minutes later, a real chance. Tahith Chong and Lokonga combined well in the middle of the park to send Issa Kabore away down the right. The Burkina Faso international delivered an inch-perfect cross that Brown met perfectly – too perfectly he would later say – however his bullet header came back off the post to the dismay of those of a Town persuasion.
While Fulham peppered the Town box with teasing crosses and intricate passing, not much got through to Thomas Kaminski to overly worry the travelling hordes decked out in orange in the away end.
Yet the Hatters held firm and moments before the break Morris believed he should have had a penalty when he was hauled to the grass by Harrison Reed. Nothing was given by the referee Michael Salisbury and there was no sight or signal of check from VAR. Afterwards, there were plenty of aggrieved faces once the Town had seen the footage back.
Not to be perturbed, the Town came out for the second half, shooting towards their noisy loyal faithful and two minutes after the restart that opening goal that's craved so dearly came within inches once more. This time Brown was the supplier, whipping a cross to the back-post to Amari’i Bell. The Jamaican international did brilliantly to be in the position to fashion a chance but couldn’t find that crucial killer touch and Bernd Leno, the Fulham keeper, was relieved once more.
After that, a period of Fulham domination. But the game was flat on the hour, and home boss Marco Silva introduced Alex Iwobi and Carlos Vinicius on 62 minutes. Three minutes later the hosts were ahead. Willian raced down the left and dug out a cross that Kaminski got a glove to – but in doing so the ball rolled free to the newly introduced Vinicius to slam home from close range.
Behind, the Hatters rallied as Fulham eyed a second. Captain Tom Lockyer denied the Fulham scorer a second with a breathtaking last-ditch tackle before the Town went in search of that late leveller.
The skipper by now was up in attack as the minutes ticked down and he had the final chance, getting his head on a ball from the right. Sadly, for all of us, the effort flashed wide and with it hope of a first Premier League point was over.
Encouragement there for all to see and another tremendous reception awaited the players as they exited the field from their passionate followers.
We’re back at the Kenny next week for Wolves.
And we’ll see you there.
Town: Kaminski; Kaboré, Bell, Burke (sub Woodrow 81), Andersen, Lockyer; Nakamba, Lokonga (sub Mpanzu 75), Chong (sub Adebayo 75) Morris (sub Ogbene 74), Brown (sub Dougthy 74).
Subs not used: Krul, Berry, Mengi, Giles.
Attendance: 24,467, including a wonderful 2,701 shouting for the Town.