MARTIN’S RED HOT NOW HE’S IN FROM COLD
FULHAM fans will be thankful that Chris Martin’s future at Craven Cottage appears to have been sorted after his two vital contributions to this victory over Barnsley.
Club and player have been at war since the Scotland international refused to play over New Year, going on strike because he couldn’t cut short his loan and return to Derby.
Since spending Christmas with his future in limbo, Martin, Fulham’s top scorer this season, refused to join the starting lineups against Ipswich and Brighton, and also the fog-abandoned match against Reading.
However, Whites boss Slavisa Jokanovic had a heart-to-heart with Martin in midweek and got an instant payback with a victory which took Fulham to within a point of Derby in the table with both team challenging for the play-off places.
And Jokanovic is delighted Martin’s loan spell is now being extended. He said : “Chris does a great job for Fulham and the people here know how important he is for us.
“We have fought hard to get him to stay here and his performance showed what a great professional he is. I am very happy that he is back with us.”
In a first half largely dominated by Fulham with Nigerian Sone Aluko and Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon making a series of dangerous raids down their right flank, Martin saw his early snapshot effort well saved by Adam Davies.
Half-time was just five minutes away when Barnsley launched their first serious attempt on goal which saw Adam Hammill hit the crossbar with a clever chip after his own powerful run from midfield.
However, it was two interventions by Martin just either side of the interval which settled the destination of the three points.
In first-half injury-time Martin was pushed in the back by Barnsley’s Angus MacDonald and quickly got back to his feet to convert the penalty that was harshly awarded by referee Andy Davies .
Ten minutes after the break Martin turned provider. As part of a counter attack he could have made a direct run on the Barnsley goal but chose instead to send a deep cross into the area which Scott Malone powered home for Fulham’s second and his own third of the season.
That was the end of Barnsley’s challenge and it was only a series of reaction saves from Davies that prevented Fulham from doubling their advantage.
The lack of attacking flair showed by Barnsley throughout suggested they may have made a big mistake by selling their top scorer Sam Winnall to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
Barnsley’s head coach Paul Heckingbottom rang the changes by sending on three substitutes in the 70th minute but their appearance made no difference – although it might have been a different story had referee Davies not make another questionable penalty decision.
In the 80th minute Barnsley substitute Adam Armstrong appeared to be the victim of a deliberate push in the back from Thomas Kalas in the Fulham area. It looked a far more blatant offence than the one which presented Martin with his penalty, but Davies waved away the Barnsley appeals.
Heckingbottom said: “The penalty was a killer for us because you don’t want to go behind at Fulham. We were second best throughout.”
LOOK WHO’S BACK: Fulham striker Chris Martin returns with a goal